General Principles and Stage 1 Complaint

What is a complaint?

A complaint under this procedure is a clear expression of dissatisfaction about the standard of service, action or lack of action by the University.  You should make it clear to the member of staff to whom you report your concern that you wish to make a complaint under the Student Complaints Procedure.

What can I complain about?

  1. Services or facilities provided by the University i.e. teaching/academic facilities and services
  2. The behaviour of staff or students relating to alleged misconduct or inappropriate behaviour   
  3. Student Support Services
  4. Administrative Services
  5. An alleged action or inaction by the University.

What can’t I complain about?

  1. Academic judgement
  2. Board of Examiners’ decisions i.e. progression, assessment and awards.
  3. Degree classifications
  4. Examination or assignment marks
  5. University Committee decisions i.e. academic offences, student conduct, academic appeals.

I’m not sure which procedure I should use

Please seek advice from the Students’ Union Advice Centre or Academic Affairs if you are unsure which procedure to use.

Where more than one procedure may apply, the Director of Academic and Student Affairs shall decide which University Regulations shall be followed. 

How do I make a complaint?

Most complaints raised by students can be dealt with at Stage 1, an informal process involving discussions with staff in the School or Service where the difficulty has arisen.  

If you have an issue with the content of a lecture, or with a lecturer, you should speak to them about it.  If you feel uncomfortable about this, then you should discuss the issue with your Personal Tutor or another member of staff in your School.

If you are unable to discuss the issues with the staff in the School or University Service, you may submit a formal Stage 2 complaint to the Head of Academic Affairs. 

If the concern arises during a work or study placement, you should raise the matter in the first instance with the member of staff at the workplace or institution in question who is responsible for the placement.  If it is not possible to resolve your concerns with the help of the member of staff responsible for the placement, you may be able to use the placement provider’s complaints procedure to pursue your complaint.  However, the University’s Student Complaints Procedure cannot be used to pursue a complaint against an external body.  If you have a problem with a University Service you should contact the Service directly.  

If your complaint relates to the behaviour of another student, you should also refer to the University’s Student Anti-bullying and Harassment Policy and the Student Dispute Resolution Policy

When should I raise an issue or concern?

You should always try to resolve a problem or issue as soon as it occurs and should approach the appropriate persons within 10 working days of the incident occurring.  Usually, the sooner you raise the concern, the easier it is to resolve.

What if my circumstances are confidential or sensitive?

All information provided will be treated by the University within the normal bounds of confidentiality and in accordance with Data Protection requirements.  However, any information or documentation submitted by you as part of a complaint will normally be shared with anyone against whom the complaint has been made or from whom a response is required.  Please be aware that if you do not want to share all the details of your concerns with the University within the Student Complaints Procedure, this may result in the details of your situation not being taken into account during the investigation of your complaint. 

Will the person against whom I have raised a complaint be told about my complaint?

The person against whom a complaint has been made will normally be made aware of the allegations being made against them. 

Any person against whom you have made a Stage 1 complaint or any person named by you in your complaint may be contacted by the person with whom you raise the complaint in an attempt to resolve the matter; however, if you do not wish this to happen, you should discuss other options open to you. 

At Stage 2, you should be aware that any person against whom you have raised a formal (Stage 2) complaint or from whom a response is required may be contacted.  The person against whom the complaint has been made will normally be advised that a complaint has been made against them and will normally be permitted to see any evidence against them.  This may include your Complaint Form and any documentation submitted by you or anyone else in support of your complaint.  However, the person against whom the complaint has been made or from whom a response is required will not be given information or documentation about other elements of the complaint which do not relate to them.

Support and Representation

If you wish to make a complaint, you have the right to be accompanied by a registered student of the University (including a Sabbatical Officer from the Students’ Union) or by a member of staff of the University or University Chaplaincy at any stage in the procedure. The role of the person accompanying you is one of support, not representation, and you will normally be expected to present your own case.

If you are a student against whom a complaint has been made and who has been called to an interview or a meeting in relation to the complaint, you have the right to be accompanied and represented by a member of the University staff or University Chaplaincy or by a registered student.

You can also seek assistance and support from the Students’ Union Advice Centre

Who can help me with this process?

The Students’ Union can help you in a number of ways:

  • By explaining the Student Complaints Procedure and the various stages
  • Help you decide whether making a complaint is the best course of action, or whether another procedure may be more appropriate
  • Help you decide whether you have grounds for complaining
  • Help you decide what supporting evidence is required
  • Help you decide what would be a reasonable outcome
  • Accompany you to a meeting with the staff member, School or Service in question

You can also speak to any member of staff of the University or University Chaplaincy.

Can I make an anonymous complaint?

Complaints made anonymously will not normally be investigated.  You may wish to consider speaking to your class representative or Students’ Union Officers, who may be willing to raise general issues on your behalf.  

Can someone else complain on my behalf?

Each student making a complaint shall normally be expected to present their own case. However, the Students’ Union Officers may be willing to raise general issues on your behalf or you can speak to your class representative.

Complaints from third parties shall only be considered for investigation if it is accepted by the member of staff dealing with the complaint that there is a valid reason for you not being able to submit or deal with the complaint yourself, in which case, you must confirm in writing that the third party is acting on your behalf and you want the complaint to be investigated.

A complaint submitted by one student (the Lead Student) as representative of a group of named students, where the issue/s raised is the same or substantially the same in each case, will be accepted and investigated in accordance with the Student Complaints Procedure.  The Lead Student must provide evidence that they are acting on behalf of and with the consent of the other named students.  All communication from the University with the group will be with the Lead Student, who will be responsible for disseminating information to other members of the group.

What kind of outcome can I expect?

You should make it clear at each stage of the procedure what outcome you are seeking. This will help all those involved. The Students’ Union can help you decide what would be a reasonable outcome.

I accept that things go wrong and sometimes can’t be fixed but I still want to complain – is this ok?

Yes.  Sometimes things can go wrong and may not be fixable or there may be no suitable redress.  It is useful, however, for such matters to be brought to the attention of the University so that the University can investigate and, if appropriate, take steps to ensure that there is no recurrence.  Complaints of this nature can therefore act as useful feedback for the University.  You can seek advice on whether or not to pursue such a complaint or simply inform the Students’ Union or your class representative who may raise the issue on your behalf.

What if I want the process to stop?

You can stop the process at any time by speaking to the person dealing with your Stage 1 complaint or by writing to the Investigating Officer or Academic Affairs explaining the reasons for requesting an end to a Stage 2 investigation.

Frivolous, vexatious or mischievous complaints

Make sure you seek advice about making a complaint. The onus is on you to present sufficient evidence to warrant investigation under the procedure.

A student who makes a complaint which is found to be frivolous (i.e. a complaint which has no reasonable chance of success) or vexatious (i.e. where there can be no additional remedy beyond that which the student has already been offered) or where the complaint is found to be mischievous (where the motive for making a complaint is malicious, spiteful or vindictive) following investigation under the Student Complaints Procedure, shall be deemed to be in breach of the Conduct Regulations.  

Unsubstantiated allegations / defamatory comments

You should be careful not to make unsubstantiated or defamatory allegations or comments about other students, members of University staff or any other person.  If the University considers that an allegation or comment may be deemed to be defamatory, it may require you to retract the allegation or delete the comment before commencing an investigation.

What should I do if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 1?

The University expects that many issues can be dealt with successfully through the Stage 1 process.  If you feel dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 1, or with the way your complaint was dealt with during Stage 1, you may submit a formal Stage 2 complaint to the Head of Academic Affairs.