Student Complaints Procedure

1. Introduction

Queen’s University is dedicated to the highest international standards of teaching, scholarship and research in an environment of equality, tolerance and mutual respect for all its staff and students. The following student complaints procedure is one of a range of quality assurance mechanisms designed to help achieve and maintain these highest standards.

2. Scope of the Procedure

This procedure is restricted to circumstances not already covered by existing regulations or procedures, and cannot be used to challenge academic judgement. The University has separate procedures covering the following circumstances:

  • complaints against another student
  • complaints relating to the Students’ Union
  • appeals against progress committee decisions
  • queries about exam/assignment marks
Please refer to General Regulations University Calendar 2010/11.

Both the Admissions Office and the Postgraduate Office have tailored this procedure to cover appeals/complaints relating to admissions decisions and postgraduate awards respectively, and so you should raise any such complaint with them in the first instance. If your problem relates to postgraduate research, you should consult Guidelines for Postgraduate Research Students, available from the Academic Council Office. Complaints against staff of harassment or discrimination will be investigated initially under this procedure, with the advice and involvement of the University’s Equal Opportunities Unit (EOU). Clarification on any form of conduct deemed to be harassment or discrimination can be obtained from the EOU, Student’s Guidance Centre.

3. Complaints about Policy

University policies and regulations are formulated by committees and approved by the University’s governing bodies (Academic Council and/or Senate). If you are unhappy about a University policy or regulation, you should raise your concerns in the first instance with the Students’ Union (e.g. Vice-President Education) or with a Staff/Student Consultative Committee (SSCC) or with a student member of the Academic Board.

4. Underlying Principles

(i) Any substantive expression of dissatisfaction with academic provision or student services will be treated as a complaint meriting a considered response.
(ii) All complaints will be recorded, thereby providing student feedback which can in turn enhance the quality of service.
(iii) Complaints will be investigated promptly, fairly and thoroughly, but with due regard to confidentiality and sensitivity, and without prejudice to the complainant’s academic progress.
(iv) Any investigation will address all the points at issue, and provide an effective response and appropriate redress.

5. Summary of Stages

There are three stages in the complaints procedure:

(a) Informal Stage
Most complaints can be quickly and satisfactorily resolved at local level, and so complainants are urged in the first instance to try to resolve their problem with the person in charge of that area, or the person closest to the perceived problem without being directly involved. For example, if you have a problem with a taught course, the person to consult might be the lecturer concerned, your Adviser of Studies or Head of School. The more formal stage of the procedure (below) will only begin when attempts at local resolution have been exhausted.

(b) Formal Written Complaint
If still dissatisfied, you should submit your complaint in writing, using a standard form, to the Academic Council Office and it will then be passed to the appropriate senior manager (usually a Dean, or a Director in the academic-support sector). Complaint forms are available from the Academic Council Office, Faculty Offices, Students’ Union, PEC, University Health Service and the Libraries. The written complaint must normally be submitted within 10 days of the outcome of the 1st (informal) stage, or, if you feel the informal approach is inappropriate, normally within 25 days of your first becoming aware of the incident or issues giving rise to the complaint.

(c) Appeal
If you are still dissatisfied after the second stage you may appeal, again using a standard form, to the Academic Registrar within 10 working days of receiving notification of the outcome of the second stage investigation ((b), above). An appeal panel, made up of people with no prior involvement in your case and chaired by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, will then meet normally within 25 working days. You should learn the outcome within 10 days of the panel's final meeting.

Note: The response times indicated above may be unachievable outside the usual semester dates. In such cases you should receive an interim reply, with a contact name and a date by which you can expect to hear further.

6. Representation

You have the right to be accompanied and represented by another registered student or by a member of staff or University Chaplaincy at any stage in the procedure. If the complaint concerns a member of staff, he/she has the right to see a copy of the complaint and also to be accompanied and represented by another member of the University staff or by a union official in any related investigation.

However, a student or staff member can have legal representation but cannot be represented by another person in their absence. No student or member of staff will be required to attend any meeting called to investigate the complaint unless they wish to do so.

7. Victimisation

No student should be victimised as a result of making a complaint, whether the complaint is upheld or not. Victimisation will be grounds for a further, separate complaint using this Student Complaints Procedure.

8. Mischievous or Malicious Complaints

A student who makes a complaint which, following investigation, is found to be mischievous or malicious may be deemed to be in breach of the Rules of Discipline set out in the General Regulations of the University Calendar. Anonymous complaints will not normally be accepted.

9. Central Monitoring of Complaints

The University sees complaints as opportunities to put things right and to learn valuable lessons which will ultimately lead to improved service. The nature and outcome of all substantive complaints received will therefore be reported to the appropriate senior manager, and a bi-annual summary (preserving confidentiality) will be presented to the Academic Council.

10. Further Information

Advice and complaint forms can be obtained from the Academic Council Office (telephone 028 9027 3006, or use internal extension 3006, or email Complaint forms are also available from Faculty Offices, the Students’ Union, the PEC, the University Health Centre and the Libraries.

11. The Board of Visitors

This Complaints Procedure is designed to avoid protracted disputes, without diminishing your rights in law or prejudicing your academic progress. You will still have the right of ultimate appeal to the Board of Visitors, although the Board normally only investigates complaints when the internal procedures have been exhausted. Further information on the Board of Visitors can be obtained from Ms P McKnight, Level 1, Administration Building.

More detailed information may be found in the details of the Student Complaints Procedure of University Calendar General regulations.