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Student Complaints

The phrase 'fitness to study' refers to a student's capacity to fully engage with University life, both academically and otherwise, without unreasonable detriment to their wellbeing and whilst maintaining appropriate standards of behaviour. Where there are concerns regarding a student's fitness to study, the University acts within a particular procedure, detailed at https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2016/chapter02-section29.html.

If you are a matriculated student then your College may use its own Fitness to Study Procedure. However, the University's Procedure can be used where the College Procedure is not appropriate, or a student does not have a College.

Students are advised to discuss any issues they are facing with their College Tutor.  Students can also receive free independent advice regarding any University procedure from the Students' Unions' Advice Service at www.studentadvice.cam.ac.uk.

Q. Who can initiate the University’s Fitness to Study procedure?

The following staff can initiate the Fitness to Study Procedure:

  • the relevant Head of Faculty or Department, or Senior Tutor;
  • the University Advocate; and
  • the Applications Committee, Board of Graduate Studies or Board of Examinations

Q. How/Why might the University’s Fitness to Study Panel be convened?

It is expected that any individual who has concerns that a student’s wellbeing or behaviour might seriously disrupt the welfare or academic progress of that student or others would first raise the matter with the Senior Tutor of that student’s College. That Senior Tutor will attempt to resolve the matter with the relevant parties – including the student - and only when such resolution is not possible shall a referral to the University procedure be possible. There may be instances where the circumstances are so serious that it is deemed inappropriate for the College to attempt resolution such as where there is an immediate and significant risk to the student.

Q. What happens when a case is referred to the University’s Fitness to Study Panel?

On receipt of a referral, a Panel, of three people, shall be formed within 21 days. The three members will be appointed from specific panels maintained by the Council and will be:

(a) a member of the Regent House who shall act as Chair;

(b) a Senior Tutor from a College other than yours; and

(c) a medically qualified person.

The members of the panel will first determine, based solely on the written referral, whether the case should be considered further under the procedure.

Q. When will I be informed of any Fitness to Study procedures related to me?

Any Fitness to Study concerns should normally be discussed with you by your Tutor or Senior Tutor before your circumstances are referred to the University. Where this has not happened, you will be sent a letter about the Procedure and encouraged to speak to your Tutor or Senior Tutor as soon as possible.

Q. If I am subject to Fitness to Study Proceedings, will I need to attend a meeting/hearing?

Where it is deemed that a case should be considered further, a meeting will be organised to which you would be invited. You will be given notice of any meeting and may be accompanied by someone of your choosing to support you; this could be your Tutor or an adviser from the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service . If you choose not to attend, the meeting will still take place.

Q. What will the hearing be like?

The meeting will want to hear all the details of the relevant circumstances so, as well as yourself and the Panel, there may also be other specific people invited. You will be informed who these people are before the meeting takes place, as well as documentation to be considered. At the meeting, you will be given the opportunity to speak to the Panel and ask questions. The Panel may ask you some questions to help them reach an appropriate decision.

Q. What could be the outcome following a Fitness to Study Panel meeting?

Decisions made by the Panel may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

  1. to agree that no further action be taken by the University; and/or
  2. to make such recommendations, including to the student’s College, and/or direct such actions, in respect of the student, as the Panel thinks fit.
  3. to suspend the student temporarily from the University and conditions, including a time period, which must be met before an application to resume study may be made;
  4. to deprive the student of University membership and exclude permanently;
  5. to subject  the student’s access to University facilities and premises to specified conditions;
  6. to refer the case for consideration under the University’s disciplinary procedures;
  7. in the case of a medical or veterinary student, to refer the case for consideration under the University’s Fitness to Practise procedures;

Any decision made will be given to you in writing with the reasons for the decision and the next steps available to you.  

Q. What if I am not happy with the decision?

Any request for review should be made within 21 days of the date on which you are notified of the Panel’s decision. If you make a request later than this you should explain why you were unable to make the request earlier; only in exceptional circumstances will late requests be accepted.                    

Requests for review of a decision of a Fitness to Study Panel may be made on the following grounds and should include documented evidence of:

  1. that there was material procedural irregularity in the consideration of the student’s case;
  2. that there was bias or prejudice on the part of the Panel;
  3. that the decision reached was perverse in that it was one which no reasonable Panel could have reached on the available evidence; and/or
  4. that fresh material evidence is available, which was not available and/or presented for good reason at the time of the original meeting.

Q. What if I am not happy with the outcome of the review?

The University of Cambridge subscribes to the independent scheme for the review of student complaints. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the review procedure you may be able to apply for review of your case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). Such an application should be received by the OIA within twelve months of the University’s outcome letter. The OIA’s leaflet, An Introduction to the OIA for Students, can be downloaded from their website: http://www.oiahe.org.uk/media/34396/oia_intro_leaflet.pdf and a link to the OIA Complaint Form is available on page 10.