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Student Complaints

  1. Do not delay - try to sort the problem out locally (through your College or your Department/Faculty) at the earliest opportunity.
  2. Try the most direct approach possible in the first instance.

It is very important to get early advice about problems or issues. Many problems or matters of prospective complaint may often be resolved quickly, efficiently, and effectively – before they become matters of formal complaint or grievance – by simple consultation or discussion with the right person. At the earliest stages, many complaints may be resolved readily with the support, involvement or intervention of a relevant member of University staff or a College Tutor or other officer, at the ‘local’ level.

Students wishing to pursue a matter of formal complaint are therefore encouraged in the first instance to consult, discuss the issues with, and seek the advice of:

  • Undergraduates: an appropriate College officer such as their Tutor, or Director of Studies; a relevant member of the University academic staff, such as the Director of Undergraduate Education or Course Director in the Faculty, Department or Institution concerned; the departmental administrator, or if appropriate the Head of Department or Head of the relevant University academic, student support or other service.
  • Graduates: Supervisor, Adviser, or other member of the supervisory team; Director of Graduate Education or Course Director in the Faculty, Department or Institution concerned; the departmental administrator, or if appropriate the Head of Department or Head of the relevant University academic, student support or other service; College Graduate Tutor or other Tutor.

The person approached may be in a position to resolve the problem direct, to intervene, or at least offer suitable advice about how to proceed or where to go for assistance or advice. The student can expect to be offered impartial or neutral advice on how to proceed and about what would constitute an appropriate or realistic remedy, and be given an opportunity to reflect on and to consider whether there is indeed a complaint to be addressed. The student will then be in a position to decide whether to proceed further, and how.

The University students unions (CUSU; Graduate Union) also offer independent advice and support, through the Student Advice Service. Advice can be sought from the University Counselling Service, the Disability Resource Centre, or other providers of student services. Advice, support and information may be available from College peers, in particular from student representatives and officers of the student union (JCR, MCR or equivalents).

Early Resolution

It is in the interest of the students that a complaint to be dealt with informally should be raised early and speedily at the ‘local’ level, in the Faculty, Department, or University institution or service concerned. Complaints should be taken up with someone in the institution responsible for the service or facilities in question. For problems relating to University teaching or lectures, an officer in the relevant Faculty or Department should be approached, and for problems relating to College supervisions, the Tutor or Director of Studies. Graduate Students may prefer to approach their research Supervisor or Adviser (or other member of their supervisory team), the Director of Graduate Education, or the Head of Department.

It is advisable to voice concerns or to raise the nature of a complaint as soon as possible. Raising an issue may often resolve a problem quickly and informally; a complaint (which may, for instance, be founded on misunderstanding or disagreement) can sometimes simply require a calm, balanced and non-prejudicial discussion between parties, without the need for any further action or an escalation of the matter to formal process. This might include, for example, face-to-face discussion among relevant parties, or asking an appropriate member of staff to deal with the matter.

There are many effective ways of dealing with ‘routine’ student concerns such as:

  • giving more information
  • providing explanations or clarifications (for example, on an examination outcome)
  • a discussion around the mutual expectations of the student and of the other parties concerned
  • suggesting solutions or action to be taken
  • being empathetic and understanding when there is no apparent solution

Whatever early resolution avenue is used, students should be able to air their concerns, raise issues, and feel that they have been listened to; staff should equally not feel inhibited from expressing a view or explaining the department’s position.

Questions to consider in attempting early resolution of concerns might include:

  • What specifically is the concern about and which area(s) of the University is/are involved?
  • What outcome is the student hoping for and can it be achieved?
  • Is the concern straightforward and likely to be resolved with little or no investigation?
  • Can it be resolved on the spot by providing, where appropriate, an explanation, an alternative solution or some form of apology?

Students are expected to exhaust all avenues of local, informal resolution before initiating a formal complaint, review or appeal process. If, however, the student is dissatisfied with the outcome of such an informal process, or the matter is not been dealt with or resolved satisfactorily or reasonably at the initial, local level, or if the problem is of a more serious nature, then other, formal procedures are available.