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Student Complaints

If the matter of your complaint arose on or after 1 October 2017, please see https://www.studentcomplaints.admin.cam.ac.uk/student-complaints.

The Student Complaints Procedure [SCP] is a general complaints procedure - more specific procedures (for instance examination review, or review of decisions) can be found on other tabs of these webpages. The procedure includes both informal and formal stages, recommending early and local resolution wherever possible. Complaints are treated seriously and are handled with confidentiality. In reading this page, please also consult the procedure itself at https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2016/chapter02-section26.html (Statutes and Ordinances, 2016, p. 205)

Applications under this Procedure should be submitted to studentcomplaints@admin.cam.ac.uk) on the SCP Application form

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

Q. Can I make a complaint?

Any matriculated student (resident member) can make a complaint regarding services provided by the University, educational or otherwise.  

A group of students can make a joint complaint where appropriate, though one member needs to be nominated as the main point of contact. This individual would be responsible for communications with the rest of the group.

Anonymous complaints may be accepted but only in exceptional circumstances where there is compelling reason for your identity to remain undisclosed. It should be noted that there will be limits to any investigation resulting from an anonymous complaint.

Complaints cannot be made about matters which are considered by other procedures or academic judgement; the University has robust processes in place to ensure that academic judgement is used appropriately. This is in line with the expectations of the external ombudsman, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. Complaints about the conduct or results of University examinations are dealt with under the procedures for examination review.

Q. How can I raise a complaint?

The University’s student complaints procedure consists of three stages:

  • discussion and advice
  • informal process
  • formal process

Where possible, students should seek advice on problems as early as possible by discussing them with a member of College or University staff. This might be: your College Tutor or Director of Studies; your supervisor; a contact in the Faculty or Department; a CUSU officer; the Student Unions’ Advice Service.

Following this, you may decide to raise your concerns with the person or body concerned. It is recognised that in some cases it may be difficult or inappropriate to raise the matter with an individual directly related to the complaint. Many departments will have a person nominated for this purpose, for instance a Student Adviser.  It is recommended that any complaint raised informally is done so in writing, either before or after any face to face discussion.

Q. What if I am not happy with the informal consideration of my complaint?

If you consider that a complaint is not resolved, or that appropriate action has not been taken, following the raising of the matter under the first two stages of the procedure, an application can be made to initiate the formal process. Any complaint made under the formal process should be submitted within three months of the informal process concluding. If informal resolution has not been attempted before a formal complaint is made, you should explain why and submit the formal complaint within three months of the matter occurring.

Q. What do I need to include in my formal complaint?

Any application should be made on the form available at the top of this page, providing a clear explanation of your complaint with evidence included to substantiate your representations. It is expected that a complaint would include:

  • details of which person or body the complaint is made against;
  • an explanation of steps taken to try and resolve the complaint at earlier stages;
  • documented evidence, with witness statements (and consent) where applicable; and
  • an outline of any remedy sought.

Q. What happens once I make a formal complaint?

Any complaint made will be acknowledged within ten working days; you will be informed of whether it is eligible to be investigated and, if so, the Reviewer appointed

The formal process provides for the independent investigation of a complaint by a Reviewer, who has no material connection to you or the matter being complained about. The Reviewer's main purpose is to make findings, on the basis of the evidence available, with regard to the complaint. These findings will be included in a report which will also include any recommendations regarding remedies or actions.

Q. Who will be informed of my complaint?

Your representations will be shared with any person or body about whom a complaint is made. They will be provided with an opportunity to make a response which will be made available to the Reviewer. The outcome of your complaint will also be made available to any person or body who had been involved in the Procedure.

Acknowledgment of complaints will be copied to a student’s College Tutor unless good reason is provided as to why this is not appropriate.

Q. Will I have to attend a meeting?

The Reviewer will initially consider the representations, and responses, on paper and will determine whether a hearing should be held. If a hearing takes place, you will be invited and may be accompanied by an adviser or friend. You may attend this by video conference where travel to Cambridge is inconvenient.

Q. What will the meeting be like?

A hearing provides the opportunity for you, and any other parties, to speak about your complaint in person. The reviewer may wish to clarify some areas of the written documentation so will likely ask you some questions related to your complaint.

Q. How long will it be until I receive an outcome?

The University expects the formal stage of any complaint to be completed within a 90 day timeframe. The exact length of time taken will vary depending on the nature of the case.

Q. What if I am not happy with the outcome of a formal complaint?

The University of Cambridge subscribes to the independent scheme for the review of student complaints. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaints 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 (Completion of Procedures). 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.