Complaints
 

If students are unhappy with any service or lack of service by the university, a complaint can be raised via the university complaints procedure.

Before you lodge a complaint you need to think carefully about the outcome you wish to achieve.

We understand that at times things can be frustrating for students and there is a need to communicate concerns. It is always better to raise an issue that is bothering you earlier, informally, than leaving it until later.

The complaints procedure is an internal process written by the university, which means that the university will take it on themselves to look into the complaint and try to resolve it as per the complaints policy.

The internal procedure also allows an independent person not directly connected to the issue to investigate the complaint.

The university prefers and highly recommends that students try resolving issues informally (“local resolution”) so that an earlier resolution can be sought without the need to go through a lengthier and more formal process. The university recognises that majority of complaints are usually resolved at an informal stage but there are instances when this is not possible.

It is not always the case that a resolution can be sought at an earlier stage and this is why there is a formal stage to a complaint.

 

Please click the following links to skip to the relevant sections of this guide.

 

What constitutes a Complaint?

What is a Programme Representative and can they help?

What doesn’t the Complaints Procedure cover?

What is the difference between Academic Appeal and Complaint?

Who can make a Complaint?

Stage 1 – Local resolution

Stage 2 – Formal Complaint

Stage 2 continued – Complaint Hearing Panel

Stage 3 – Review

How do I complete the formal complaint’s form?

What is a group complaint?

When does a complaint need to be submitted?

Can I proceed straight onto the Stage 2 – Formal Complaint?

I am out of time to lodge a formal complaint, what can I do?

Can the student union attend the Conciliation Meeting and any Panel meetings with me?

I am not happy with a fellow student's conduct and wish to make a complaint against him/her?

Who will get to see the content of my complaint?

Can my complaint be anonymous?

 

What constitutes a Complaint?

Complaints can be related to the following issues but not limited to this as we understand that each case and situation is different:-

  • the conduct of a member of staff at the university
     
  • the delivery of a programme  
                                       
  • a service provided by the university (this can be any department or service within  the university)
     
  • other organisations or contractors providing a service on behalf of the University.

If you’re unsure if your problem falls under the scope of the complaints procedure you may want to book an appointment with us or contact us for email advice.

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What is a Programme Representative and can they help?

Programme Representatives can address issues relating to the programme you are studying. They can assist you with problems on your course. They can raise your concerns to the programme committee and see if any change or improvements can be made. If you wish to find out who your program rep is, please click on this link.

Alternatively, you can email Nishaant Kumar from the Students Union who oversees the rep system (n.kumar@uel.ac.uk)

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What doesn’t the Complaints Procedure cover?

It is worth noting before putting in a complaint that the following categories do not fall within the complaints process. There are separate procedures to follow and we recommend that you click on the necessary sections on our website to find out more information on these categories.

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What is the difference between Academic Appeal and Complaint?

At times it can be confusing whether your case falls within a Complaint or Appeal. Sometimes your case may fall between the two. If you are unsure, you can always book an appointment with the Students’ Union to get advice on this.  

Academic Appeal is generally when you are disputing whether the correct procedure was followed when marking your work. You would most likely put in an appeal when you feel there was some material irregularity or administrative error relating to your assessments or your support needs were not met and as a result you suffered a disadvantage to your assessment.  

Please refer to our section regarding Appeals for further guidance. For matters relating to this, you would not put in a complaint as this is related to your assessments and a complaint would not overturn a decision relating to your assessments.

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Who can make a Complaint?

All students can lodge formal and informal complaints.

The procedure is not restricted to just students from the university and is open to prospective university students and members of the public, though we will only be able to provide advice to current UEL students following our Service Standards.

These are the 3 stages in the complaints procedure:-

1. Local resolution

2. Formal complaint  

3. Review

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Stage 1 – Local resolution

If you have a complaint you should raise this with the most appropriate person informally. This can be either by contacting them to arrange a meeting or simply dropping an email raising the concern or issue you may have.

This step would be considered as the “local resolution”, or informal stage.

Normally, each stage of the complaints procedure must be exhausted before moving on to the next. In most cases, an informal/local resolution should be attempted, except where the complaint is of a very serious or sensitive nature.

If you believe it’s not possible to resolve your complaint at the local stage then we would recommend you seek further advice from us.

An attempt to resolve the issue locally should be made within one calendar month of the event which has given rise to your complaint. If there are a series of events you should attempt to resolve the matter locally within one calendar month of the final event in the series.

You should address your complaint to member of staff most directly involved in the event leading to your complaint, wherever possible. This gives that person the opportunity to resolve the matter informally.

You may be invited to meet with this person to discuss the matter. If you wish, we can attend the meeting with you given at least 48 hours notice and if Advisers are available.

At the end of the informal stage of resolution you will be provided with a written response to your complaint which will either:

  • Explain the proposed resolution; or
  • If no resolution has been proposed, explain why.

The response should be “reasonable and should be based upon the evidence available to the member of staff making the decision.”

The member of staff should try and respond or resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but at the very most within one calendar month.

If you are unhappy with the response you can move to the formal stage of the procedure, Stage 2.

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Stage 2 – Formal Complaint

If you are not happy with the outcome of Stage 1, you will need to submit a compled Student Complaint Form within one calendar month from the time you receive a written response from Stage 1.

If you are skipping Stage 1 as your complaint is very serious or too sensitive to be resolved at Stage 1, then you must submit a Student Complaint Form within one calendar month of the event which has given rise to your complaint. If there are a series of events you should attempt to resolve the matter locally within one calendar month of the final event in the series.

The form must sent to complaints@uel.ac.uk.

The Form when completed should include:

· The grounds for complaint;

· A statement of what has been done by the student to attempt resolution within the School / Service;

· Why the resolution/ action taken by the School / Service following notification of the complaint has been inadequate;

· The form of resolution or redress sought; and

· If resolution at Stage 1 has not been sought, the reasons for seeking to progress the complaint at Stage 2 directly.

We can guide you on how to draft the form (please see here) and can take a look at the form before you submit this to Complaints. Please contact us.

Once it has been received you will receive an acknowledgement of receipt within seven calendar days.

An evaluation will then take place as to whether your complaint was submitted under the right procedure, the form was completed correctly, the form was submitted in time, and that your desired resolution is “achievable, reasonable and proportionate”.

You may be asked for further information before the form is accepted.

If it is accepted your complaint will be allocated to a member of staff not previously involved in the matter. This person will be called the “Investigating Officer”.

This could be a Dean, Head of School, Director or Head of Service or other senior members of staff in the relevant area which is subject to the complaint.

Conflict of interest will be avoided, so if necessary your complaint may be investigated by a Dean, Head of Service or other staff from another School or department entirely.

This person will meet with you to discuss your complaint and how to resolve it. If you wish, we can attend the meeting with you given at least 48 hours notice and if Advisers are available.

After the meeting, the Investigating Officer may need to correspond further between the parties involved, or hold further conciliation/mediation meetings between yourself and those concerned. Again you may be accompanied by a friend or an Adviser.

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Stage 2 continued – Complaint Hearing Panel

In the process of investigating your complaint as above, the Investigating Officer may decide that a panel hearing may be appropriate in order to hear your case.

This would be chaired by a Dean from another School, or a Head of Service from a another service.

The panel should be held, normally, within one calendar month after your complaint is lodged at Stage 2.

The panel would consist of the Chair (the Dean), two other members of academic or support staff from areas not related to your complaint, and a Students’ Union representative.

You can be accompanied by a friend or Adviser. We can attend the meeting with you given at least one weeks’ notice so that we can prepare and arrange to attend, if we are available.

The panel will decide on the outcome, and let you know within 10 working days.

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Stage 3 – Review

You can ask the matter to be reviewed if you are not satisfied with the outcome.

You must do this in writing and address this to the Deputy University Secretary and send this to complaints@uel.ac.uk within 10 working days from the date you are notified of the outcome of Stage 2.

They can only consider your request on the following grounds:

  • there has been a material procedural irregularity which has demonstrably affected the outcome of the claim to the detriment of the student; or
  • there is new evidence that would have significantly affected the outcome and could not reasonably have been made available when the complaint was made; or
  • that there is evidence that all of the relevant information was not considered at Stage 1; or
  • that the decision is perverse given the facts of the case; or
  • that the complaint was upheld but the proposed remedy was inappropriate

When you write your request for review you should stick to one (or more) of the grounds listed above. You should explain very clearly why you believe the grounds are met. You should refer to your evidence where necessary to support your argument.

If they believe you have met one or more of the grounds they will review your case. They may either:

  • Uphold the outcome of the Formal Complaint; or
  •  Refer the case back to the school/service with recommendations for reconsideration

They will respond to you with a decision within one calendar month of your request.

At this point if you are still not satisfied you can put in a complaint to the Office for the Independent Adjudicator. We would advise that you consult with us at this point by booking an appointment.

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How do I complete the formal complaint’s form?

There are 3 sections to the complaints form.

Section 1 – Your details - This is self-explanatory and requires basic information such as your name, course, ID, program of study, correspondence etc.

Section 2 – Your complaint You are asked what service or School you are complaining about. Section two asks you to explain how you have tried to informally resolve the issue and with whom. You should give dates, times, and refer to evidence if you have already attempted to resolve the matter informally.

If you have not made attempts to “conciliate”, you are asked to do so. If you are making a very serious or sensitive complaint which you do not believe can be resolved informally then you need to explain this here, letting them know that you wish to proceed to Stage 2 directly.

You are then asked how the action taken by the School/Service was not adequate. This part is very important as it forms the basis of your complaint. You should try and run through the issue chronologically in three rough sections:

  1. The facts of what happened, when it happened. It may be that you have one incident or many incidents that have occurred, but the dates will help structure your argument.
     
  2. How you tried to resolve this informally and how the School/Service responded with.
     
  3. Your argument as to why this response was not adequate

In the next section you will see that there are three columns. ‘Date of incident’, ‘What happened?’ and ‘Supporting evidence’.

Going through your response in the previous section you should briefly outline, chronologically, what happened. You should give the dates, and then list the evidence.

You should try and number your evidence where you can, this helps the person reading your form to keep track. Please see the example given on the form.

Below this section you will see a box which states ‘Please summarise how you would like to see your complaint resolved’. You need to write down what your desired outcome is for your complaint.

Section 3 – Time Limits this part needs to be completed if you miss deadlines to put in a complaint. If you have exceptional reasons for missing the time limits, you will need to provide your reasons in this section and refer to any evidence.

If you are on time for your complaint, you can ignore this section and proceed further.

Section 4 – Declaration –The University are required to obtain your consent to hold some of your information on the database, and to disclose your information to University staff, legal advisors purely for the purpose into the investigation of your complaint.
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What is a group complaint?

A group complaint is where several students feel dissatisfied with the same issue. Sometimes doing a group complaint may hold more weight because there a several students complaint about the same thing. If there is a group complaint, one person should be nominated to be the spokesperson so they can communicate on the group’s behalf.

The evidence submitted to support the complaint must be agreed with the group and included with the Complaint Form. No additional evidence will be accepted once the complaint has been submitted.

Students as part of a group complaint should read the complaint form and provide some kind of signed declaration stating that they agree with the form and are part of the complaint.

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When does a complaint need to be submitted?

At Stage 1, the complaint should be raised within one month of the event, or end of serious of events.

If this fails and you are not satisfied you would then raise your complaint at Stage 2, in writing and on the Student Complaint Form within one month.

The form should be completed and sent to complaints@uel.ac.uk.  You should receive an acknowledgement within one week of lodging your completed complaint form.

Always remember to keep record of your form and email receipt.

If you remain dissatisfied you must raise your complaint at Stage 3 for review within 10 working days of receiving the Stage 2 outcome.

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Can I proceed straight onto the Stage 2 – Formal Complaint?

Yes, you can but only where your case is very serious or sensitive in that it cannot be raised informally.

If, for any reason, a complaint cannot be raised informally further advice should be sought from our service via way of appointment or using our contact form.

You could also seek the support of a senior academic (if the complaint relates to an academic matter) or the relevant head of service (if the complaint relates to a non-academic service) in order to identify an appropriate alternative means to achieve a resolution.

If you decide to proceed directly to Stage 2 you must explain why this is the case under Section 2 of the form where it states “Please provide details of the staff member(s) you have spoken regarding your complaint and attach the Stage 1 informal outcome issued to you”.

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I am out of time to lodge a formal complaint, what can I do?

If you attempt to raise a complaint informally at Stage 1 after a month has passed since the event (or last event in a series), the member of staff involved is not compelled  to investigate the matter unless you can provide

  • a justifiable reason or hindrance beyond your control or;
  • evidence of extenuating circumstances that stoppied you from raising the matter sooner.

You will need to provide evidence to support your case as to why your informal complaint should be considered.

At Stage 2 a completed complaints form should be lodged with the Complaints address within the time limits detailed in the Complaints Procedure.  An extension of these time limits will only be possible in exceptional circumstances, such as illness, an apparent risk of victimisation, personal embarrassment or other hindrance beyond the student's control.  If your complaint has been made outside of the timeframe, you will need to explain in your form why the complaint is late and provide any supporting evidence.

We advise that you should aim to submit the form without any undue delay as soon as you are able to do so.

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Can the student union attend the Conciliation Meeting and any Panel meetings with me?

Yes we can provided that we receive reasonable notice regarding the venue, location, time and date of the meeting and give us at least one week’s notice. Please contact us here.

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I am not happy with a fellow student's conduct and wish to make a complaint against him/her?

You cannot make a complaint against a fellow student through this policy. Part 12 Manual of General Regulations and the Dignity at Work and Study Policy cover complaints about the behaviour of other students.

We are able to assist you with these issues and would advise you make an appointment.

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Who will get to see the content of my complaint?

Complaints handled at a local stage may be shared with other staff involved or mentioned in the complaint so the person investigating can look in to the matter.

Complaints at the formal stage will be shared with the School or Service, and may be shared with other staff involved or mentioned in the complaint so the person investigating can look in to the matter.

If you make a complaint about a member of staff they will be informed a complaint has been made about them so they have a chance to respond.

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Can my complaint be anonymous?

No, complaints cannot be made anonymously. No action will be taken by UEL if you submit an anonymous complaint.

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