Complaints Procedure

1. The University of Derby Complaints Procedure aims to:

1.1 Support students with a straightforward, appropriate and effective process for resolving complaints;

1.2 Take complaints seriously, but also to deal with them in a way that is appropriate to the issue complained about;

1.3 Guarantee that complaints are dealt with on the basis of evidence and proper investigation;

1.4 Ensure that every issue raised in a complaint receives an appropriate explanation;

1.5 Ensure that all people directly involved in a complaint have the opportunity for a fair hearing and understand each step of the process;

1.6 Be operated in a respectful and sensitive way, value people’s point of view, having due respect for confidentiality;

1.7 Provide appropriate remedies when a complaint is upheld;

1.8 Help us to keep on improving the quality of what we do.

2. Student Responsibilities

2.1 In order that the University can deal with a complaint properly and in a timely manner, we ask that students engage with the complaints process and undertake the following responsibilities:

i. Raise concerns at the earliest opportunity;

ii. Observe the Student Code of Conduct and the Entitlement and Responsibilities Statements in the conduct of communications regarding a complaint;

iii. Follow informal routes to resolve your concerns before raising a formal complaint;

iv. Engage with the investigator;

v. Consider seeking support from the sources listed in section 6 including the Union of Students Advice Team;

vi. When submitting a complaint provide full detail in a concise manner and provide

vii. documentary support for points made;

viii. Make considered and reasonable suggestions for remedy should the complaint be upheld and include this in your complaint submission;

ix. Be aware of sensitivities where issues involve other students or staff;

x. Raise a complaint only where a genuine issue has arisen, since repeated unfounded complaints may cause distress and could amount to harassment.

3. How will Complaints be dealt with?

3.1 Whenever possible a complaint will be dealt with swiftly and informally;

3.2 When formal investigation is needed, the approach will still aim to avoid confrontation and blame, but it will nonetheless be rigorous and impartial;

3.3 When a complaint requires speedy investigation or the complaint needs to be handled confidentially, an opportunity will be made available to do so;

3.4 People involved in operating the complaints procedure will make known anything that would prevent them from acting impartially and step aside if that is agreed to be the right course of action;

3.5 Complaints need to be decided in accordance with academic standards, the University’s legal duties and our published policies and procedures. However, if a complaint highlights an inconsistency between University practices, policies and procedures and our obligations to a student, then exceptionally it may be appropriate not to apply that policy of procedure in the case of that complaint;

3.6 The University will make appropriate adjustments in the context of individual circumstances where those circumstances are evidenced, for example, in relation to a disability or third party carer arrangement;

3.7 Anonymised complaint summaries will be reported to the appropriate Programme Leader/Chair of relevant Research Committee after the investigation and findings so that they can be acted upon as part of our Annual Monitoring for quality enhancement purposes;

3.8 The University will need to keep records of complaints and their investigation and will monitor the information relating to complaints to allow us to improve our services. Complaints will be logged and monitored by the Student Complaints and Conduct Team within The Registry, the process will be overseen by the Student Complaints and Conduct Manager. The complaint record is separate from the student record;

3.9 Sometimes staff or the University will wish to give an apology in recognition of disappointment or hurt feelings, but that will not, in itself, constitute an acceptance of legal or moral responsibility.

4. What is a Complaint?

4.1 A complaint arises when it is felt that an aspect of a course/programme, University service, facility or site is unsatisfactory and should be investigated.

4.2 The Complaints Procedure is not intended for appeals against the decision of an Assessment Board or, for postgraduate research students, the decision of appointed external examiners and/or Research Committee (refer to Academic Appeals Section). For matters related to unacceptable social behaviour by a student (refer to the Grievance Procedure).

4.3 Complaints relating to the misconduct of a member of staff may be submitted initially as a complaint but may later be referred to the appropriate Grievance or Disciplinary Procedure.

4.4 The University will be responsible for ensuring that the Complaints Procedure operates without fear of recrimination or retribution against the complainant.

4.5 If a formal complaint is submitted that would more appropriately be dealt with through other University procedures, for example academic appeals, the University will pass it on to be considered by the relevant part of the University. The University will write to the person who makes the complaint and any other parties involved if this needs to be done.

4.6 Complaints should be raised within 3 calendar months of an issue occurring. Complaints submitted outside of this time period will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

5. Who may complain?

5.1 A complaint may be made by a student, a previously registered student, a student studying with a partner institution in collaborative arrangements* on a University of Derby award, a recent graduate or an applicant for a programme of study.

5.2 Complaints submitted by a third party or representative will not normally be formally investigated. A complaint made by a third party will however be passed to the appropriate College/Department as informal feedback.

5.3 Throughout the Complaints Procedure students are entitled to bring someone with them to any meetings held to discuss the complaint. This person, referred to as a “friend”, should be a member of the University or a Union of Students representative. Where the complaint is brought by a student under the age of 18, they may be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

6. Who can help you make a complaint?

6.1 Students should refer to the following as sources of impartial help, advice, guidance and support in making a complaint.

6.2 Informed guidance may be sought on the applicability and operation of the procedures from their College Student Centre.

View complaints guidance, including an online form for submission of complaints.

7. The Complaints Procedure

7.1 Informal Investigation by University Management

i. If an issue is not resolved at the point of it arising, the person making the complaint should inform a senior manager immediately responsible for the relevant academic or service area. The online complaint form may be used for this purpose. The manager will deal with the issue at source if at all possible.

Guidance: For advice on who to contact as a senior manager, the student may seek help from a College Student Centre or The Registry.

An online form is available for logging complaints. This is available through UDO and the complaints website at and is submitted to Student Complaints and Conduct Team within The Registry.

ii. Possible outcomes for the person complaining:

iii. Possible outcomes for the institution:

iv. A response with appropriate explanations in relation to all matters to which the student has requested a response, will be made within 10 working days of the complaint being lodged. If it is not possible to make a full response at this time, an update will be sent detailing the revised timescales for response.

7.2 Formal Investigation by University Management

i. If the complaint is still not resolved, the person complaining must complete a complaint form. These are available online via UDO and on our website. View complaints guidance. Anyone without access to the internet may contact the Student Complaints and Conduct Team for assistance.

ii. Complaints must be escalated within 20 working days of date of the response made at the informal stage. The University reserves the right to reject any complaint outside of this timescale.

iii. The student should ensure that the form is completed fully and correctly, providing all relevant information. Particular thought should be given to the nature of the complaint and the proposed remedy.

iv. If the form is not fully completed or the case to be considered is unclear, the complainant will be asked to submit further information. If a clear case is then not evident, the University reserves the right to dismiss the complaint without investigation.

v. If help is needed for completing the form the student may request this from any of the sources listed in paragraph 6 above.

vi. Receipt of the form will be acknowledged and it will be sent to the Dean of College/Director of Department for investigation unless they are themselves the subject of the complaint when it will be sent to another Dean/Director.

vii. The Dean/Director will nominate an investigator not previously involved in the circumstances of the complaint. This will be a Head of Department within the college, or suitable person outside of the College or Department, or a member of the senior management team for support areas.

viii. Once nominated, the investigator will offer to meet with the person making the complaint. This meeting could be face to face, virtually or as a telephone conversation.

ix. The investigator will conduct an investigation as follows:

Fact-finding stage

The aim of a formal investigation is first to arrive at as true and fair a picture of the factual circumstances surrounding the complaint as is possible, bearing in mind:

If the circumstances are significantly different from those alleged in the complaint the investigator may require an additional meeting with the person making the complaint to clarify the facts before being in a position to proceed with the investigation.

It is at this point that the investigator may wish to consider whether a formal complaint hearing would be beneficial. A hearing is appropriate in the following circumstances:

Further details of the hearing are available in point 7.2.xiii below.

If there are factors, which would cause the complainant to withdraw their complaint, had they been known, the investigator should meet with the complainant to advise them.

Where such instances occur, following discussion with the complainant, the investigator may then advise the Dean/Director that the investigation need not continue and of any action or remedies that should be taken where necessary.

Process review stage

On the basis of an appreciation of the facts surrounding the complaint, the second aim of the investigation is to determine whether the dispute or allegation is well-founded. When undertaking this investigation, the considerations should include:

Due regard will be given to the University’s values and legal duties, particularly in respect of Equality and Diversity and legal rights. These last considerations may be taken to override any other policies and procedures, if they apply to the benefit of the students.

The investigation will proceed on the assumption that the complainant’s case is fully contained in the information provided in the form and any accompanying documentation supplied and from any meeting with the investigator.

The person undertaking the investigation will work with the co-operation of staff and management of the University to investigate complaints speedily, fairly and transparently. To the extent that it is practicable and proportionate, the investigation should be tracked by written notes or documentation.

The person responsible for the investigation may meet with the complainant at the fact-finding stage and may choose to feed back their findings in person, as well as in writing.

x. A written response with appropriate explanations in relation to all matters to which the student has requested a response, will normally be sent within 20 working days of the complaint being logged. If it is not possible to make a full response in this time, an update will be sent detailing the revised timescales for response. All responses are copied to Student Complaints and Conduct Team.

xi. Other than the initial meeting and the feedback, it is envisaged that most effective investigations can be conducted without further face to face meetings and a formal complaint hearing;

xii. Responses resulting from a formal investigation will normally be final.

xiii. Further to point ix above if relevant a Formal Complaint Hearing will be arranged:

i. The Panel to hear the complaint will comprise:

ii. The panel will be supported by a secretary, nominated by the Academic Registrar

iii. The Academic Registrar or nominee will notify the student, at least 10 working days in advance, of the time, date and place of the panel hearing. This timescale can be reduced by mutual agreement.

iv. It is the student’s responsibility to prepare and present their case and they are entitled to bring a friend (See point 4.3). Details of anyone accompanying the student must be notified to the Complaint Panel seven days in advance of the hearing. The friend may make representations on the student’s behalf with permission of the Chair of the Panel.

v. The student is entitled to call witnesses, but must notify the Academic Registrar or nominee seven days in advance of the panel hearing if they intend to do so.

vi. The student is entitled to see in advance of the hearing all relevant evidence, except provisional assessment marks or grades, but must keep all such information confidential. They are entitled to be present throughout the hearing except for the private meetings of the panel.

vii. The panel may also call witnesses. Members of the panel may question the student and the witnesses. The student may also question the witness. All witnesses will leave the meeting after giving their evidence.

viii. When all the evidence has been heard, including the student’s closing statement, the student and their friend or parent/guardian will leave the meeting and the panel will consider its decision in private.

ix. The panel’s decision and explanation will normally be communicated to the student immediately after the meeting and subsequently confirmed in writing by the Chair. The report of the panel hearing, once approved by the Chair of the Panel, will be submitted in confidence to the members of the panel and to the Dean/Director.

xiv. Possible outcomes for the person complaining:

xv. Possible outcomes for the institution

7.3 Complaint Review Stage

i. If the student is not satisfied with the final response from the Dean/Director, they may write to Student Complaints and Conduct Team in The Registry, requesting that the conduct of the investigation be reviewed.

ii. The request for a review must be made in writing within 10 working days of the date on the written notification of the outcome of the formal complaint. Such a request should indicate clearly the reasons for dissatisfaction and should present a case as to why the review is required. These reasons could include for example; procedural error, new evidence or aspects of the complaint not sufficiently covered by the investigation.

iii. Receipt of the request for review will be acknowledged to the student by the Academic Registrar or nominee. The Academic Registrar or nominee will consider whether the case for review is properly made. They may also consider whether there is further scope for resolution without recourse to review. The student will be advised within 5 working days whether the request for a review has been accepted.

iv. Where requests for review are accepted the student will then have 10 working days in which to submit all paperwork for consideration at review.

v. A member of the Vice Chancellor’s Executive will review the complaint and may either:

vi. The outcome of the review will be communicated to the complainant in writing normally within 20 working days of submission of the full review documentation.

vii. The review will not normally be a formal hearing and there is no expectation that the review will require any further investigation of the facts.

8 Remedies

8.1 The University is committed to providing the highest standards of service and maintaining good relationships between staff and students;

8.2 Remedies available in response to complaints therefore reflect our desire for customer satisfaction and to maintain quality;

8.3 An offer of a remedy should not to be taken as admission of legal responsibility, nor should a particular remedy or offer of a remedy be regarded as a legal entitlement;

8.4 Often remedies in response to complaints, such as apologies, will be wholly, or partially, gestures of good will and may be given with or without conditions;

8.5 When deciding what outcome is best to resolve a complaint, the University aims to provide the response it feels is most appropriate to help a person benefit from a quality service from the University;

8.6 When the person complaining can no longer benefit from the University’s services, or where a complaint alleges an impact beyond the scope of the University’s services, a Dean/Director or member of senior management may wish to consider alternative courses of action to resolve the complaint, which may include remedies not listed below;

8.7 Remedies will need the approval of a Dean/Director and may include the granting of some or all of the following:

i. Reconsideration of a decision within University policies and procedures, as if that decision was being made for the first time;

ii. Remission to an appropriate body with the power to authorise the application of an exception to the University’s policies and procedures;

iii. Review of a University policy or procedure, with or without suspension of its operation in particular or general cases;

iv. Suspension or cancellation of a fine, penalty or limitation of service;

v. Proportionate reimbursement of moneys paid, or a waiver of moneys owed;

In addition

vi. In all cases, the student is entitled to an explanation; and

vii. In any case an apology may be offered

9. Office for the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

In the event that the complainant is not reasonably satisfied with the outcome at the Complaint Review Stage, they may request an independent review by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). In order to do so the complainant must obtain a Completion of Procedures letter from the University. This confirms that the institution has completed consideration of the case through local procedures. In such circumstances, the complainant should forward a completed scheme application form to the OIA, who will review the complaint independently in due course.

Scheme Application Forms are available from the OIA at:

Office of the Independent Adjudicator,
Second Floor
Abbey Gate
57-75 Kings Road

Telephone: 01189 599813