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 locally to resolve your concerns before raising a formal complaint
iv. Engage with the investigator and Student Policy and Regulations
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 documentary support for points made
vii. Make considered and reasonable suggestions for remedy should the complaint be upheld and include this in your complaint submission
viii. Be aware of sensitivities where issues involve other students or staff
ix. Raise a complaint only where a genuine issue has arisen, since repeated unfounded complaints may cause distress and could amount to breaching the Student Code of Conduct where relevant Student Conduct procedures would be initiated.
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 Policy and Regulations Team within The Registry, the process will be overseen by the Student Policy and Regulations 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).
4.3. Complaints relating to the misconduct of a member of staff or student 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 where evidence is provided to mitigate the delay
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. A complaint related to Student Living will only be considered following completion of a complaint investigation under the Student Living complaints procedure.
5.3. 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.
5.4. 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.
• Programme Leader and Personal Tutors
• The Union of Students including the Union of Students Advice team
• College Student Centres
• The Registry
• Online Learning Advisors
• Hall Manager (issues in Halls of Residence)
• Student Research Office
6.2. Informed guidance may be sought on the applicability and operation of the procedures from their College Student Centre. Guidance is also available on the University web pages at www.derby.ac.uk/complaints which includes a link to an online form for submission of complaints.
7. The Complaints Procedure
7.1. Step 1 Complaint
i. If an issue is not resolved informally at a local level, the person making the complaint can submit their complaint to Student Policy and Regulations with a completed complaint form and accompanying evidence.
An online form is available for logging complaints. This is available through UDO and the complaints website at www.derby.ac.uk/complaints and is submitted to Student Policy and Regulations Team within The Registry. A word document version of the complaints form is also available on the website which can be sent as an attachment via email.
Student Policy and Regulations will review the complaint and accompanying evidence. The complainant will be advised on the eligibility of their complaint or asked to provide further information where required.
An eligible complaint will then be forwarded from Student Policy and Regulations to an investigator within the relevant area. The investigator will be impartial to the complaint and have no prior involvement. At Step 1 the investigators will normally be the Discipline Lead or relevant Senior Manager
ii. Possible outcomes for the person complaining:
· The matter is resolved or explained to the satisfaction of the person making the complaint;
· The person making the complaint decides they do not wish to pursue it;
· The complaint raises a valid issue that requires an appropriate remedy (see 8, below);
· The matter is not resolved (or the manager feels that a formal investigation is required) and the complainant moves on to a Formal Investigation by University Management;
· In addition to any of the above, the appropriate member of staff or Department may wish to issue an apology.
iii. Possible outcomes for the institution:
· If not already done, an anonymised summary of the complaint (whether or not pursued by the complainant) is reported to the line manager or departmental officer responsible for monitoring service, together with the outcome;
· The complaint is reviewed alongside other complaints in preparation for annual monitoring and generic or specific action is followed through in the Quality Enhancement Plan;
· Other staff/departments may be briefed to prevent recurrence of the problem;
· If the complaint raises an issue that needs to be addressed urgently, the relevant manager shall take appropriate steps, which may include staff development, review of procedures or alerting senior management.
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 assigned to an investigator. 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. Step 2 Complaint
i. If the complaint is still not resolved following Step 1, the student complaining may escalate their complaint by submitting another complaint form. An online form is available for logging complaints. This is available through UDO and the complaints website at www.derby.ac.uk/complaints and is submitted to Student Policy and Regulations Team within The Registry. A word document version of the complaints form is also available on the website which can be sent as an attachment via email.
ii. Complaints must be escalated within 20 working days of date of the response made at Step 1. 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. Student Policy and Regulations will review the complaint and accompanying evidence. The complainant will be advised on the eligibility of their complaint or asked to provide further information where required. 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. There are circumstances where a complaint may enter the complaints procedure directly at Step 2. These circumstances include;
• A complaint has been investigated and responded to by Student Living under the Student Living complaints procedure which would constitute as Step 1
• A complaint has been received from a student on Collaborative Programme or Partner institution where the completion of the local complaints procedure would constitute as Step 1
• In exceptional circumstances appropriate level staff for Step 1 investigations have been involved in resolving the complaint locally and/or form part of the complaint and as a result it is not possible for them to reinvestigate at Step 1
vii. Receipt of the form will be acknowledged by Student Policy and Regulations team 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.
viii. The Dean/Director or nominee will nominate an investigator not previously involved in the circumstances of the complaint. This will normally 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.
ix. 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.
x. The aim of a Step 2 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:
• the available evidence and timeline of events;
• the time and resources that can be reasonably afforded to investigating the matter;
• the impact of the complaint on the person complaining and others who may be affected if it is found to be valid;
• the relevance of the circumstances to the issue complained of;
• information provided by the person making the complaint.
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.
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 complaint 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. On the basis of an appreciation of all the facts surrounding the complaint, the second aim of the investigation is to determine whether the dispute or allegation is justified / partially justified or not justified, and that appropriate remedy/ redress has been provided where the concerns are found to be justified or partially justified
xi. 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.
xii. Responses resulting from a formal investigation will normally be final.
xiii. Possible outcomes for the person complaining:
• The matter is resolved or explained to the satisfaction of the person making the complaint;
• The person making the complaint decides they do not wish to pursue it;
• The complaint raises a valid issue that requires an appropriate remedy (see 8, below);
• The complainant challenges the investigation because it has been unfair, did not act in accordance with fair procedures or infringes a legal right;
• In addition to any of the above, the appropriate member of staff or Department may wish to issue an apology.
xiv. Possible outcomes for the institution
• An anonymised summary of the complaint is reviewed alongside other complaints in preparation for annual monitoring and generic or specific action is followed through in the University Enhancement Plan;
• Other staff/Departments may be briefed to prevent recurrence of the problem;
• If the complaint raises an issue that needs to be addressed urgently, the relevant manager shall take appropriate steps, which may include staff development, review of procedures or alerting senior management.
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 Policy and Regulations 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 Step 2 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; evidence of procedural error, or identifying aspects of the complaint not sufficiently covered by the investigation and/or outcome.
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 clear 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. Where clear scope for resolution is identified the Step 2 investigator will be advised to consider this and revise their response which will be sent to the student within 10 working days.
iv. A member of the Vice Chancellor’s Executive will review the complaint and may either:
• Remit the complaint for investigation to the original investigator (or suitable independent person/body) for further investigation or
• Confirm or/and amend the findings and remedies of the formal investigation outcome.
v. 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.
vi. 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. A Review will consider;
• Whether the University’s policies and procedures have been followed;
• Whether the previous investigations and outcomes were arrived at fairly and in accordance with published procedures and policies, applied in a fairway;
• Whether the decision taken while permissible within regulation or procedure was disproportionate to the circumstances under which it was made;
• Whether the decision was one that the person or department was entitled to make and could have reasonably come to on the evidence before them.
i. The University is committed to providing the highest standards of service and maintaining good relationships between staff and students;
ii. Remedies available in response to complaints therefore reflect our desire for customer satisfaction and to maintain quality;
iii. 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;
iv. 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;
v. 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;
vi. 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;
vii. Remedies will need the approval of a Dean/Director and may include the granting of some or all of the following:
- Reconsideration of a decision within University policies and procedures, as if that decision was being made for the first time;
- Remission to an appropriate body with the power to authorise the application of an exception to the University’s policies and procedures;
- Review of a University policy or procedure, with or without suspension of its operation in particular or general cases;
- Suspension or cancellation of a fine, penalty or limitation of service;
- Proportionate reimbursement of moneys paid, or a waiver of moneys owed
- In all cases, the student is entitled to an explanation; and
- In any case an apology may be offered.
9. Office for the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) runs an independent scheme to review student complaints. The University of Derby is a member of this scheme. If you are unhappy with the outcome you may be able to ask the OIA to review your complaint. You can find more information about making a complaint to the OIA, what it can and can’t look at and what it can do to put things right if something has gone wrong via: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/students
You normally need to have completed the Complaints procedure before you complain to the OIA. We will send you a letter called a “Completion of Procedures Letter” when you have reached the end of our processes and there are no further steps you can take internally. If your Complaint is not upheld, we will issue you with a Completion of Procedures Letter automatically. If your Complaint is upheld or partly upheld you can ask for a Completion of Procedures Letter if you want one. You can find more information about Completion of Procedures Letters and when you should expect to receive one via: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/providers/completion-of-procedures-letters