Some cases have to be “disentangled” - separating out the various strands can greatly simplify the investigation. For example, a personality clash or disappointment at a low examination mark may manifest itself in allegations of poor lecturing. It should also help to distinguish the facts (i.e. where the true position can be established) from rival interpretations of events, and to identify any misunderstanding on the part of the student or staff member.
In some cases, the investigation may simply involve establishing whether a particular procedure was correctly followed e.g. assigning CATS points, choice of Master’s projects, use of or access to University facilities etc.
Some students may view their failure in examinations or assessed work as evidence of bias or unfair treatment. In such cases, an explanation of assessment methods may dispel the perception of bias (e.g. anonymous marking, double marking, the role of the External Examiners). Otherwise, complainants should be asked to explain how they believe they have been treated unfairly.
If the nature of the complaint is not clear, the student should be asked to summarise the precise nature of the complaint and the outcome or redress sought. If it becomes apparent that a student is seeking an academic outcome, an academic appeal will normally be more appropriate, at least in the first instance (see Academic Appeals Regulations (Taught Programmes) and Academic Appeals Regulations (Postgraduate Research Programmes). You should make the student aware that strict deadlines apply.
The University will not normally invoke two procedures at the same time; however, where, for example, a student raises concerns about the teaching or conduct of a member of staff and also wishes to challenge an assessment mark, the student should be referred initially to the relevant Academic Appeals Regulations. Any residual concerns the student may have can be addressed under the Complaints Procedure at the end of the appeals process.
If you consider that a complainant has made any unsubstantiated or defamatory allegations or comments about other students, members of University staff or other persons, you may require the complainant to retract the allegation or comment before commencing an investigation.
If a student makes a complaint against a member of staff, advice should be sought from People and Culture at an early stage, before taking any steps or interviewing any party as, depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint, it may be deemed more appropriate to deal with the matter under Performance Management or Staff Disciplinary procedures. Advice may be sought without disclosing the names of those involved or the details of the complaint, if necessary.
The student should be advised of the support available from Student Wellbeing and, if the allegations relate to sexual misconduct or a hate crime, referred to the Safe and Healthy Relationships Team (Report and Support)