Key points to be aware about. You will need to:
- understand the difference between a complaint and an academic appeal (which have separate processes);
- be aware of the general Principles of complaints
- be aware of the different Stages of complaints
- register your formal complaint using the appropriate complaint form (enclosing supporting evidence) in time.
What is the Complaints Procedure?
The University defines a complaint as:
“...an expression of dissatisfaction by one or more students about a university’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the university”
The scope of this procedure is on resolving dissatisfaction about your experience of education or services and not with disputing academic marks, issues with progression, fitness to attend or other matters.
Summary of Key Principles
It is important before detailing the various stages of the complaints procedure to be mindful of the following principles in which it is guided:
- That students should initially seek the earliest possible opportunity to resolve a complaint through informal resolution;
- That a complaint can be made by an individual student or by a representative on behalf of a group of students;
- You may appoint a representative to submit the complaint on your behalf (i.e. from the Students’ Union);
- You have the right to receive reasons for decisions made;
- If there are allegations of a criminal offence, Aberystwyth University may refer the matter to the police and suspend its own proceedings.
There are three stages to dealing with complaints: informal, formal and final review. It is good practice and in everyone’s interest to have matters dealt with at the most informal level possible (at least initially). This can mean speaking directly with the person who you have a particular issue with or even your personal tutor. You may find it helpful to prepare well for this meeting by seeking advice from AberSU first. There is no strict timescale for dealing with informal complaints but guidance suggests that 10 days is reasonable ‘wherever practicable’.
If you are feeling vulnerable or otherwise struggling with this process it is important to know that we can provide advocacy to help you engage with this process. If you feel unable or uncomfortable dealing with the matter directly, the Union also offer an informal mediation service which may help you to resolve the matter by having an impartial advisor coordinating communications and supporting all sides to arrive at a fair, acceptable, and mediated solution.
If after trying the informal route you find that the situation cannot be resolved, then your next option is a formal complaint. This should be completed using the appropriate Complaints Form which can be downloaded from the links at the end of this guide and should normally be submitted within 10 working days of the completion of the informal route.
You are strongly encouraged to seek advice for this stage because the formal complaints procedure is more structured. The complaint should briefly set out:
- What you have done to resolve the matter informally;
- Your main points with dated chronology of key events;
- It should also be supported by evidence (which might include copies of emails/ witness statements or other relevant documents);
- If you would like a chance to meet with someone (e.g. the member of staff you are complaining about) as part of this process;
- The outcome that you would like in event of the complaint being upheld (this should be realistic, proportionate and reflect the complaint itself).
Your complaint will then be coordinated by the Academic Registry and an appropriate response will be given by the relevant Head of Department. If you have requested to meet then a meeting will be scheduled. The relevant Head of Department will then issue a formal response which should normally take no longer than 6 working weeks from the date of receipt of the formal complaint, though were possible these are cleared sooner.
It is important to note that an AberSU advisor may accompany you to any meetings during all formal stages. This includes giving advice about University regulations, good practice guidance as well as possible outcomes and redress.
How do I submit my Complaints Form?
You will have to complete the relevant form. This will include your basic details and the key topics discussed above, including nature of your complaint, why you feel the issue was not dealt with effectively at the informal stage, what evidence you will be providing and what outcome or form of redress you seek.
You can submit the form which you can find by using the useful links at the end of this guide either by post to: Academic Registry (Complaints), Cledwyn Building, Penglais, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DD, or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember: The standard deadline for complaints is 10 working days.
What happens after I submit the form?
On receipt, the Academic Registry coordinates communications and will be responsible for issuing you the response from the relevant Department, Institute or Service within 6 working weeks. The response should detail the process for investigation, evidence gathered and decision made. If it appears that a response will be delayed you should be informed why this is, and will be kept informed of progress.
What if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of my Complaint?
If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome from the Department you may request a Final Review. Firstly you will need to submit a Final Review form within a specific timeframe, normally 10 working days from the date of the decision. You can appeal the decision made under the following grounds, these are:
- Procedural irregularity (an error made in application of regs/procedure), or,
- New evidence (which couldn’t have reasonably been submitted earlier).
What happens once I have submitted a Final Review form?
Final Review is a chance for a Pro Vice-Chancellor from the University management structure to review whether matters were investigated fairly and that reasonable decisions have been made. It is not a chance to re-open the investigation and start anew. They may however decide to convene an official Panel where appropriate in order to assist them. The kind of options available to them (or Panel) shall be to dismiss the request for review and uphold the original decision; or else, if upheld, to recommend appropriate remedial action.
This process can take up to 6 weeks and the decision is final and a closure of the internal University process. Once again an advisor from the Advice Service may be able to attend a Panel if convened and will be able to support you through the Final Review process.
If you remain unhappy with the outcome of the Final Review decision, there is another option external to the University; by taking a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) which can be discussed further with an advisor.
What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?
The AberSU Advice Service is independent from the University and provides a free, confidential and impartial service to all Aberystwyth University students.
The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:
- Explain the Complaints Procedure to you and guide you through its various stages;
- Review any draft statements that you prepare and offer suggestions;
- Monitor the progress of your complaint;
- Accompany you to any meetings to provide support and representation;
- Help you to collate appropriate evidence to support your case.
To discuss all of your options, including what support is available to you, please contact us below:
First Produced: June 2017
Reviewed: November 2018