Student complaints procedure

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  • 1. Student Complaints ProcedureIntroductionThe University aims to provide high quality services to students. Unfortunately things occasionallygo wrong and we need to be made aware when this happens so that we can respond and furtherimprove our services. Whatever your complaint you can expect it to be dealt with promptly andfairly and in line with the University’s policies and procedures. You will not be disadvantaged ortreated less favourably by making a complaint.How the University’s Student Complaints Procedure operates Your complaint Stage 1: informal resolutionTalk to the member of staff most directly involved. If you arenot sure who to approach you can seek advice from either Complaint resolvedUPSU Advice, your Programme Leader, your Faculty Officeor the Complaints Office You remain dissatisfied Stage 2: make a formal written complaintWrite to the Complaints Office. Your complaint will be sent to Complaint resolvedthe relevant Senior Manager for investigation and response You remain dissatisfied Stage 3: ask for referral to a Complaint Review PanelWrite to the Complaints Office, saying why you aredissatisfied with the Senior Manager’s response and ask for Complaint resolvedreferral to a Complaint Review Panel You remain dissatisfied Referral to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education 1 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 2. Is this the right procedure to use?Before deciding whether to use the complaints procedure, please read the following which mayhelp you decide if this procedure is the most appropriate route to deal with your case. If you arestill not sure after you have studied this information, please contact the Complaints Office (seefootnote) which will be able to advise you further. Are you dissatisfied with aspects of your course? There are a number of ways of making your views known other than using the complaints procedure: • issues/problems can be raised at Programme Committees, School or Faculty Graduate Affairs Committees and Staff/Student Liaison meetings by your course rep or otherstudent representative; • the annual Student Perception Questionnaire is an opportunity to provide critical feedback. Most final stage undergraduate students are also asked to participate in the National Student Survey, the results of which are used to help the University improve its support for the student learning environment; • consult with UPSU Advice or a Student Union Officer who can deal with matters directly or raise through their representation on university committees; Do you feel you are being harassed? Make it clear that you find the behaviour unacceptable and, if possible, ask the person responsible to stop. If you need advice or support in making such a request or if the request is ignored you can talk to one of the University’s trained Harassment Advisers who will be able to act on your behalf. If informal discussion does not resolve the matter then you can contact the Head of Equality and Diversity for guidance. Unwillingness to approach the individual will not be interpreted as constituting consent nor will it prejudice any complaint that may arise. Further information on harassment, including a list of Harassment Advisers, is available at or by e-mailing Is your complaint is about alleged misconduct either by another student or a member of staff? Then you should normally approach the appropriate Head of School, or in their absence another appropriate senior member of staff of the School. Your Faculty Office, UPSU Advice or the Complaints Office will be able to tell you who this is if you do not know. Are you dissatisfied with a decision made by an Assessment Board? e.g. progression from stage to stage; withdrawal on academic grounds; degree classification; decisions of Committees of Investigation about academic offences, etc. 2 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 3. If this is the case you need to use the University’s appeal procedure. The appeal procedure is not described in this document, but you can find out more information on the student portal or from your Faculty. If you submit an appeal which incorporates a complaint, your complaint will be investigated before your case is put to an Appeal Panel.If the thing that has gone wrong for you isn’t included above then you may wish to use theStudents Complaints procedure described in this document.Making a complaintIf you have decided that the complaints procedure is the most appropriate step to take, pleaseread the following before going any further. Does the complaints procedure apply to you? If you are an undergraduate, taught postgraduate or research student currently registered on University of Plymouth award (but not at a partner college) then you can use this procedure. If you are studying for an award at a partner college, you must pursue your complaint using your College’s procedure (details of which you can obtain from your College). If you have exhausted your College’s procedure and you are still dissatisfied you can refer it to the University. Please note, though, that the University will not re- investigate your complaint from scratch; our review will be confined to consideration of whether (or not) the College has properly followed its stated procedures and has come to a reasonable conclusion. Who can make a complaint? We will normally deal only with complaints made by current students. We will not normally consider complaint made after you leave the University, unless you have an exceptional reason why you could not have raised this at the time you were registered (exceptional reasons may include you coming into possession of information on which a complaint is based subsequent to graduation; a complaint about references issued by or on behalf of the University; a complaint of a particularly sensitive nature). You cannot make an anonymous complaint. The Student Complaints Procedure can be used by an individual student or by someone acting on the student’s behalf with their express written consent, or by a group of students. Complaints cannot be anonymous but we will always treat them with appropriate sensitivity; information will only be disclosed to those who need to see it for the purposes of dealing with your complaint. What are the timeframes for making complaints? It is in your best interests to make a complaint as soon as possible, when events are clear in the minds of everyone involved and when evidence may be more readily available. The timeframes in which you should normally lodge your complaint and the time in which the University will normally respond are given in the section on “How does the complaints procedure operate?” below. 3 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 4. The University acknowledges that it may take time to investigate and resolve your complaint but we will endeavour to do so within the timescales indicated and to notify you of any delay.How does the procedure operate?The flow chart on the front of this document sets out the steps in the complaints procedure.Step 1 Informal ResolutionDiscuss the problem with the member of staff most directly concerned. This might be yourprogramme leader, supervisor(s) or a person responsible for a particular service. Manycomplaints can be dealt with informally through discussion and explanation. If you are not sure towhom you should make your complaint, you can ask UPSU Advice, your Faculty Office or theComplaints Office for advice.It is important that you make your complaint as soon as is reasonably practicable, and normallywithin 20 working days of the occurrence of the problem. This increases the possibility of sortingout the problem quickly. If you delay this can restrict the chances of responding effectively.If you remain dissatisfied having approached the member of staff most directly concerned, youshould talk to your Head of School or the Head of the Service involved. It may still be possible todeal with your complaint informally.Step 2 Formal Written ComplaintIf it has not been possible to resolve your complaint informally you can lodge a formal writtencomplaint via the Complaints Office. You should lodge your formal complaint normally no laterthan 20 working days after you completed Step 1.You should use the complaints form available here as Attachment 2. UPSU Advice can adviseyou if you have any questions about how to complete the form.Please send your form to the Complaints Office, c/o Dean of Students, Plymouth campus.You will receive a written acknowledgement of your complaint from the Complaints Office within 5working days. Your complaint will be directed to the most appropriate senior manager within theUniversity, who will then correspond directly with you about your complaint. Theacknowledgement letter that you receive from the Complaints Office will give the name of thissenior manager.If you submit your complaint direct to the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor or other seniormanager without having pursued informal resolution first, it will be referred (via the ComplaintsOffice) to the appropriate member of staff (e.g. the Head of School). You will receive a letter fromthe Complaints Office advising you that this has happened and the name of the person dealingwith the complaint (e.g. the relevant Head of School)You can expect to receive a written acknowledgement of your complaint from the relevant seniormanager normally within 5 working days of it being sent to them by the Complaints Office. Thesenior manager will then investigate the case. The investigation will include discussing thecomplaint with any individual directly concerned with the service or action complained of. Youshould get a full response from them within 20 working days. If it seems possible that a response 4 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 5. will be delayed you will be told why e.g. the complexity of the case, staff unavailability throughillness or professional commitments etc. and you will be kept informed of progress.You will be told of the outcome of the investigation and what, if any, action is to be taken. Forexample, your complaint may be referred to a University Committee for action. You may receivean apology or a statement on how systems will be improved for the future. If the Universityintends to take no further action you will be told why not.Step 3: Referral to a Complaints PanelIt is possible that even after you receive a full written response to your complaint you are notsatisfied with the outcome. If this is the case you should write to the Complaints Office explainingwhy you remain dissatisfied and what you would consider to be a satisfactory response. Youcannot simply reiterate the original formal complaint. You will receive an acknowledgement ofyour letter within 5 working days of it being received by the Complaints Office.Depending on the nature and cause of your dissatisfaction the Complaints Office may have toconduct further investigations in order to respond to any specific issues you raise. If we need youto provide further information, such a request will be put in writing to you. It is in your bestinterests to respond to such a request as promptly as you can, so that the investigation of yourcase is not delayed unduly.Once the Complaints Office has completed any further investigations a University Complaint Panelwill consider your case and make recommendations. The Panel will meet within 20 working daysof the conclusion of the Complaints Office’s investigations and will be a group of 2 staff and 1Student Union Officer taken from the University Complaints Board.A Complaint Panel will normally review a complaint on the basis of the documentation only; ahearing will only be arranged if the Panel believes it is necessary. Further information on theoperation and outcomes of Complaint Panels can be found as Attachment 1.Referral to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher EducationThe University hopes the above procedure will satisfactorily resolve your problem. Veryoccasionally this may not be the case; in this instance, you are able to ask the Office of theIndependent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to review your complaint and the way in whichit has been handled by the University. You can only refer your complaint to the OIA when youhave exhausted the University’s complaints procedure. At that point, you will be sent a letter bythe University confirming that the institution’s procedure has concluded; this will containinformation on how to contact the OIA.Further information is available at (or by contacting the Complaints Office on01752 582053). 5 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 6. Attachment 1 Complaint PanelPreliminariesA Complaint Panel will consider a formal complaint only after a substantive written response hasbeen provided by the appropriate Senior Manager and the complainant remains dissatisfied. Thecomplainant will write to the Complaints Office indicating the nature of their complaint; whatremedy or explanation they have sought; why they remain dissatisfied. The Complaints Office willthen review the case; gather together all the relevant documentation; compile a summary report ofwhat investigations have been undertaken and their findings. The report and documentation willbe considered by the Panel within 20 working days of its compilation.Where a complaint is against a named member of staff, that individual has a right to provide awritten statement in response to the complaint and to have that statement included in thedocumentation submitted to the Panel.Constitution of the PanelA Complaints Board has been formed from staff from the Faculties and services and officers fromthe Student Union who are experienced in handling complaints. A Complaint Panel will be formedfrom members of the Board, comprising two members of University staff, one of whom will act aschair, and one member of the Students Union. Panel members will not be from the Faculty orservice under complaint. The Panel will be constituted taking into account issues of gender,ethnicity and other equal opportunity considerations where possible. This may requireaugmentation of the membership of the Panel. The complainant will be advised of theconstituency of the Panel and of the documentation to be referred to it.Workings of the PanelThe Panel will be provided with the summary report and the other relevant documentationcollated by the Complaints Office and will meet to consider the complaint. If the complaint dealswith complex or specialist matters, access to relevant expertise will be made available.The Panel may come to conclusions and make recommendations on the basis of thedocumentation alone: there is no requirement for a hearing to be held.If, however, after considering the written material the Panel concludes that a face-to-face hearingwould provide a better understanding of the issues, this will be arranged by the Complaints Office(see section on “Hearings” below).HearingsIf a hearing is considered necessary the Complaints Office will inform the Senior Manager whoprovided the formal response at Step 2 that they or their designated deputy will be required toattend the hearing to explain the outcome of their original investigation. The Complainant andSenior Manager will be permitted to arrange for appropriate witnesses to attend the hearing tosupport the presentation of their case. The Complainant, the Senior Manager and any witnessescan be accompanied by a friend or representative. Depending on the requirements for attendanceat the hearing the Complaints Office will make arrangements for a suitable time and venue for allparticipants, normally giving 5 working days notice for preparation for the hearing. If having calleda hearing the Complainant or witnesses do not attend the Panel can elect to proceed without theirpresence. The Panel will determine its own procedures at the hearing but this will normally 6 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 7. include interviewing the Complainant, the Senior Manager and any witnesses. A record of theproceedings of the hearing will be kept by the Complaints Office, which will be treated inconfidence amongst the participants.OutcomesThe Complaint Panel will consider its conclusions and recommendations in private. A number ofoptions are available to the Panel, including:• To endorse the response of the Senior Manager.• To ask the Complaints Office to undertake further investigations to assist the Panel in coming to a conclusion.• To uphold the complaint in whole or in part and make suggestions as to how the situation might be remedied which might include compensation. Compensation may be financial, but must reflect loss (i.e. not punitive damage)The outcome and the reasons for it will be communicated in writing as soon as possible to thecomplainant and the Senior Manager by the Complaints Office.The complainant will be issued with a “Completion of Procedures” letter by the Complaints Officeonce the University’s complaints procedure has been exhausted, together with information aboutthe Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.The Senior Manager should advise all members of staff involved in the complaint of the outcome,in an appropriate manner, while recognising that the outcome relates to personal data under theData Protection Act and is therefore subject to the confidentiality provisions of that legislation. 7 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 8. 8You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 9. Attachment 2University of PlymouthStudent Complaints ProcedureFormal Complaint FormWhen to use this formIf you have raised your complaint informally but remain dissatisfied with the outcome, you canuse this form to lodge a formal complaint. You should also refer to University’s StudentComplaints Procedure, which explains how your formal complaint will be dealt with. A copy ofthe procedure is attached to this form.If you have already had a response to a formal complaint and wish your case to be referred toa Complaints Panel, you do not need to fill this form in again: please refer to the ComplaintsProcedure for advice about what you need to do.About youName (in full):Registration number:Course:Faculty:Stage:Are you studying at a partner college? If so, please state which College:Address at which you can be contacted about your complaint:Please let us know if your address changes while your complaint is ongoing.Please indicate any periods when we will be unable to contact you about your complaint:e.g. holidays:Telephone number:Email/Fax: 9 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 10. About your complaintProvide as much information about your case as you can - this may help speed up theprocess. Please attach the evidence you have to support your case and any documents youare relying on. Continue on a separate sheet if necessary. 10 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 11. What action have your taken already to attempt to resolve your complaint?What response have you received?What is it about this response that is not satisfactory?Say what outcome you would wish your formal complaint to achieve.Signed:Date:Send this form to:Complaints Officec/o Dean of StudentsUniversity of PlymouthDrake CircusPlymouth, PL4 8AAEmail: (01752) 587766 11 You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 12. 12You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 13. 12You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.
  • 14. 12You can contact the University Complaints Office by email on or telephone 01752 587770.