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Student Complaints

Student Complaints Procedure

If you are unhappy with the experience you have received from a University department, faculty, service or staff member, the University has a Student Complaint Procedure for you to use in order to try and resolve the situation. All complaints are treated seriously and are handled sensitively. We understand that it can be a stressful experience to submit a complaint, particularly when it is about an individual staff member, for example a PhD supervisor.  We recommend that you seek support and advice from your College Tutor, Graduate Tutor or the Students' Unions' Advice Service at www.studentadvice.cam.ac.uk.

Step 1: Local resolution

Where appropriate, you should attempt to raise a concern with the responsible staff member. If you do not feel comfortable raising the matter with this person then you should speak or write to the Responsible Officer or the person responsible for the Faculty, Department or Service (your course handbook or the service's webpages may have more information).  You should raise your complaint as soon as it occurs or at least within 28 days of the matter arising.  Many issues can be resolved easily and quickly if you communicate your problem to someone.

Step 2: Formal resolution

If the response from the department, faculty, service or staff member has not resolved your complaint, or your complaint is so serious that you feel you can't raise it with them, complete and submit the Formal Complaint form, within 28 days of the matter arising or within 28 days of the response you received from the department, faculty, service or staff member.

Formal resolution process

You will be appointed a Case Handler who will screen your complaint to make sure it can be considered under the Student Complaint Procedure.  Your Case Handler will confirm the outcome of the screening within 7 days of receiving your complaint.  If your complaint is eligible, the Case Handler will then conduct an investigation; the staff involved in your complaint will be sent a copy of the information you have provided and will be requested to provide a response.  

Your complaint and any responses will be considered by a Complaint Officer; an academic staff member who is not connected to your College or Faculty who has no knowledge of the case.  The Complaint Officer will make a decision about your complaint and consider a remedy, where this is appropriate.  The Case Handler will send you the Complaint Officer's decision and any staff responses. 

Occasionally the Case Handler or Complaint Officer might want further information from you during the investigation, if so, you will be sent the staff responses at this point, before being asked to provide a written statement or to attend a meeting.

Step 3: Review

If you are dissatisfied with the Complaint Officer's decision, you can request a review of the decision on the following grounds:

  • procedural irregularities that occurred during Formal Resolution, which were material or potentially material to the decision reached;

  • the Formal Resolution decision is unreasonable, in that no reasonable person could have reached the same decision on the available evidence;

  • the availability of new evidence, which materially impacts the complaint outcome and which, for valid reasons, could not have been submitted at an earlier stage.

In order to request a review, you will need to complete and submit the Review form within 14 days of receiving the Complaint Officer's decision.  Providing your request for review is eligible, it will be considered by a Reviewer who can either uphold or dismiss your request.  Where a request is upheld, a remedy can be put in place.  You will receive a Completion of Procedures letter with the Reviewer's decision.  This letter confirms the completion of the University's internal procedures.

What if you are unhappy with the final outcome?

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Student Complaints Procedure you may be able to apply for review of your case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), an external ombudsman.  More information will be given in the final decision letter you receive from the University.  You can find out more information about the OIA at www.oiahe.org.uk.

Complaints that arose before 1 October 2017

The University implemented a revised Student Complaint Procedure on 1 October 2017, the new Procedure provides clearer expectations for students.  However, if your complaint occurred before 1 October 2017, you have the right to use the previous procedure and can find information at https://www.studentcomplaints.admin.cam.ac.uk/student-complaints-procedure-0.  A copy of the previous Procedure is available at https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2016/chapter02-section26.html (Statutes and Ordinances, 2016, p. 205).