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Information about

The University Complaints Procedure

Independent Advice, Support and Representation


The Procedure The University has a Student Complaints Procedure which all registered students are able to use if they have a complaint about educational provision and related services. The University website sets out a comprehensive outline of the policy and procedure and the following can be read in conjunction with this, or of course before calling into the Students’ Union office and speaking to someone from the Advice Service. There are two main parts to the procedure – Informal and Formal – and students should decide which of these options should be applied. Informal Complaints are recommended wherever possible and relevant as it means issues can often be resolved very quickly to everyone’s satisfaction. This might include arranging to have a chat with a relevant member of staff or writing a letter outlining the concerns. If the student doesn’t feel satisfied with the outcome then s/he could choose to use the formal part of the Student Complaints Procedure. Formal Complaints can be made at any time by a student. There is a framework for this process which can in some instances be progressed by the student through three different stages. At each stage the following is required: A Student Complaints form can be picked up from the Students' Union offices, Student Services, Heads of Faculty Administration or Heads of Service. Students then need to complete all details of the Complaints Form, clearly marking whether they are making an INFORMAL or FORMAL complaint. Students must write a statement outlining the nature of the complaint, indicate what supporting evidence they are attaching and what they would like to see happen as a result of making the complaint. This must be realistic and reflect the complaint itself. The Students’ Union can give students advice about possible forms of redress if they are unsure. The Complaint must be forwarded to the relevant Complaints Officer (refer to the appendix in the complaints booklet), or call in to the Students' Union and we will forward it on behalf of a student.


Writing a statement The statement should be a factual outline of the incident or event that has taken place and we suggest that students take a logical and chronological approach in ordering it. Students should balance the amount of information well so that enough information is given for the reader to make sense of the complaint whilst keeping it concise. If a complaint gives names, students must be aware that these people will be contacted in the course of any investigation. Even if you do not feel that the situation itself is 'fair', the other party must be given the opportunity to respond to the information you have provided. Processing the Complaint Once the complaint has been submitted, a student should normally receive an acknowledgement within 10 working days of the Complaints Officer receiving it. The Complaints Officer then has a responsibility to check that the complaint is legitimate – or if there is another process more applicable. If the complaint does progress it will be passed on to a relevant Investigating Officer who will be a member of staff within the Service or Faculty. Students may be asked to meet with this member of staff to fully discuss the situation. Staff will aim to complete any investigations within one month and respond in writing as soon as possible. Complaint Outcomes and the stages of the Process When investigations are complete the student will be contacted in writing to be told of the decisions made and whether all aspects of the complaint have been resolved. If a student is happy with the outcome, they can move on and put it out of their mind! If however, a student is not happy with the response, they can choose to take the complaint to the next stage. If students are dissatisfied we suggest that they should evaluate carefully what it is that they are unhappy with. For example, have some points not been acknowledged at all, is it that certain information has not been fully taken into consideration or the recommendations don’t match the concerns that were outlined? Students should put together a ‘covering letter’ explaining what they feel still needs to be addressed or relooked at, and explain the reasons that they feel this way. Students should comment on the impact – this might be a continuation of how they felt originally or circumstances may have changed for the worse. Students really need to relate back to the original concerns. And not forget to state what they would like to see happen should their complaint be successful.


Essentially there are three stages that a Complaint can go through. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an investigation of your complaint, and you wish to take it to the next stage in the complaints process, it is your responsibility to submit the relevant documents to the same Complaints Officer and request an investigation at the next Stage. You must do this within 10 working days of the date you received the formal response about your complaint. The Complaints Officer will again carry out an assessment to ensure it is correct and proper to proceed with the complaint. If your request is accepted, the Complaints Officer will forward the relevant paperwork to an appropriate member of staff for investigation. If the Complaints Officer does not feel the complaint should be progressed, s/he will write to the student and explain why. If a student disagrees with the reasons given they could appeal to the Vice Chancellor. Stage 1 At Stage One the investigation of your complaint is undertaken by a Head of School or Programme, or by a senior member of a Service, who acts as an Investigating Officer. The Investigating Officer will report the findings of the investigation to the Complaints Officer, who will notify you whether the complaint is accepted or rejected. You will receive a written report from the Complaints Officer, to explain why any decisions were made. The Complaints Officer will inform you of any action(s) and/or redress taken, or that will be taken, as appropriate. If you are unhappy with the results from a Stage 1 investigation, you can contact the Complaints Officer (in writing within ten days of receiving a response about the outcome of your complaint at stage 1) and request your complaint proceeds to the next stage (Stage 2). Stage 2 At Stage two the investigation of your complaint is undertaken by the member of the University’s Senior Management Team who has responsibility for the Faculty or Service relevant to your complaint (usually a Faculty Dean). The Investigating Officer will report the findings of the investigation to the Complaints Officer, who will notify you whether the complaint is accepted or rejected, and any action(s) and/or redress that has been, or will be taken, as appropriate.


If you are unhappy with the results, you have the right to contact the Complaints Officer (again in writing within ten days) and ask them to progress your complaint to the next stage (Stage 3). Stage 3 At Stage three, the investigation involves a Complaints Hearing by an independent and impartial committee, chaired by a member of the University Management Team. The committee also includes another senior member of University staff and a member of the Students’ Union Executive. You can attend the Hearing and will have the right to question others attending as well as to present the reasons for your complaint. The Students’ Union can attend this hearing with you to support or represent you. The Hearing committee will report their findings to the Vice Chancellor who will notify you about whether your complaint is accepted or rejected and about any action(s) or redress to be taken as appropriate.

If you are dissatisfied with the results from the Stage 3 investigation you have the right to appeal through the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator). For more information about the OIA contact the Students’ Union Adviser using the contact information at the end of this information guide. The Role of the Students’ Union There are a range of ways we can support you in this process. We can: • explain the full process to you and guide you through the stages • help put together a statement • forward your completed complaint to a Complaints Officer and monitor it. • go with you to a meeting where we could either help to represent you, provide support or act as a minute taker. It is important to remember that the complaints procedure is intended to be used to complain about University Services or provision that do not meet the standard or fulfil elements that you feel were promised to you or you are entitled to. If your complaint is about a member of staff, then please come to speak to us in the Students’ Union as the complaints process may not be the most applicable route as it may become a matter for Human Resources rather than for Complaints.


Complaints Procedure Timescales The table below is taken directly from the University procedures and outlines the normal timescales in the complaints process, though not all of these ‘events’ will be necessary, in every complaint. Who Student complainant Complaints Officer (CO)

Investigating Officer (IO) Complaints Officer (CO) Student Optional process Complaints Officer

Description Submits a formal complaint Acknowledges receipt of the complaint. Conducts a validity assessment and decides if the complaint does/does not warrant investigation. Undertakes an investigation of a complaint and reports findings to the Complaints Officer Provides student with a report on the outcome(s) of an investigated complaint Requests CO to move to next stage in Process eg Stage 1 to Stage 2 if response at stage investigated is dissatisfactory Conducts another assessment when student requests move to next Stage. CO decides if the complaint does/does not warrant a new/further investigation Convenes Complaints Hearing at Stage 3

Complaint Committee Chair Complaint Notifies the student of date/time/place Committee for Complaints Hearing Chair University Notification of outcome(s) of Complaints Directorate Committee Hearing Relating to validity assessment Student Appeals to the University Directorate if Optional the complaint is rejected at the process assessment, via the Student Quality Adviser in LISS Student Can appeal to University Directorate (via Optional SQA in LISS) if CO decides complaint process does not warrant a new investigation Student Quality Forwards a ‘rejected’ complaint to a Adviser (SQA) member of the University Directorate for consideration University Notifies student ‘on appeal’ if the Directorate complaint should be investigated (further) and at which Stage (1/2/3) OR that the complaint is not accepted and the internal process is closed

When and in what form Within 2 months of the pertinent event, using form Within 10 working days, in writing

Within one calendar month of receipt of complaint information (from the Complaints Officer) Within a calendar month of receipt of complaint, in a written report Within 10 days of notification of Complaints Officer’s report, in writing Within 10 days of receipt of student’s request

Within 28 days of notification from Complaints Officer 10 working days notice

Within 20 working days of the Hearing Within 10 days of notification of rejection, in writing

Within 10 days of notification from the Complaints Officer Within 10 days of receipt from student Within 20 working days of appeal being notified to the SQA


Contacting the Advice Service

If you would like any further information, would like to arrange an appointment or want to speak to a Students’ Union Advice Service staff member then contact:

Students’ Union Student Advisors: email: suadvice@cumbria.ac.uk Trish Lee: 01524 526567 Chloe Merna: 01228 616272 You can also drop in to your local Students’ Union Office on each main Campus to speak to arrange to speak the Student Advisor in person, on the telephone or to arrange a suitable appointment.

If you’d prefer it you can arrange an online chat with the Student Advisor using the virtual receptionist at:

www.thestudentsunion.org.uk/advice email: suadvice@cumbria.ac.uk to arrange an appointment or why not visit the Advice Service section of the Students’ Union website to see what other information and advice we can offer?

If you would like this document in an alternative format please contact Trish Lee On Tel:01524 526576 or e-mail:suadvice@cumbria.ac.uk


UCSU Complaints Information