Academic Complaints.

What would I complain about?

A complaint can arise if one or more students have a specific concern about an action or lack of action by the University, the standard of a service provided by or on behalf of the University, or about matters that affect the quality of the learning opportunities.

Regardless of which decision you are appealing against, there are set grounds for appealing. These differ depending on the type of appeal but if your appeal is not based on one of the eligible grounds it either will not be considered or another process may be more appropriate. Below you will find the different grounds based on the different decisions you can appeal.

  • Category 1: teaching and assessment (teaching, tutorial and academic pastoral support, curriculum)
  • Category 2: university services (school administrative services, central administrative services)
  • Category 3: other services and general (complaints which don’t fit into the above categories or are of a more general nature)
  • The outcome of Board of Examiners
  • Penalties for exams and assessment offences
  • Reconsideration of requests for special assessment arrangements
  • A decision made by a Fitness to Practice Panel
  • A complaint about the catering, residential or bus services
  • A complaint about the Health Centre
  • A complaint about the Students’ Union
  • Disciplinary action taken against you under the disciplinary procedures relating to non-academic matters

What is the first step?

Before submitting a Formal Complaint, you must raise your issue informally. If you are having problems with your course then this will generally be with your Head of Department or Head of School. Formal complaints can take up to 3 months for the initial investigation so informal, early resolution is preferable. If you would like advice around an informal complaint, an Advisor would be happy to help you approach this.

Escalating to a Formal Complaint

If you have been unable to resolve your complaint informally then you may want to escalate this to a formal complaint. To submit a formal complaint you need to fill in the complaints form. You need to set out your concerns clearly and concisely, provide any evidence you have to support your complaint. Evidence may include; emails, medical evidence, timeline/dates of meetings, reports by a professional, witness statements, financial information etc. All completed complaint forms should be submitted electronically to complaints@rhul.ac.uk. If you have a justified formal complaint, you should submit this as quickly as possible and within three months of the incident or action being complained about. Please do not wait until your results are published for fear that raising complaints at the time will adversely affect your grades; this is not the case and will only lead to possible regrets and dissatisfaction as retrospective complaints cannot be investigated unless in exceptional circumstances.

What happens next?

Once the Academic Investigations team receives a complaint form, they will consider the content and:

  • forward the complaint to an appropriate Investigating Officer (see here for more information)
  • provide an immediate written acknowledgement to the student(s) concerned
  • inform any member(s) of staff concerned that a complaint has been received, including their line manager if appropriate.

The appropriate Investigating Officer will investigate your complaint, seeking relevant documentation from any member of staff and, at his/her discretion call a meeting at which you and any other persons involved may submit your views on the complaint. Following the investigation, you will be emailed the initial findings. They aim for a 60 day turn around, however in busy periods, this is likely to take longer.

What if I am unhappy with the Initial Findings?

If you are not for any reason satisfied with the content of the initial findings letter, you will be given 2 weeks from the date of receiving the initial findings letter in which to comment. The grounds for requesting a review can be found in more detail here. If you have not submitted a response by the 2 week deadline, the College Secretary's Office will issue you with a Completion of Procedures Letter.

If you do decide to respond to the initial findings on one or more of the grounds stated, the Vice-Principal or nominee will consider the details of the case and all relevant documentation provided by the Investigating Officer. He/she will review the case, along with your response, and may, if necessary, take further advice.

Once the College Secretary's Office is satisfied that the investigation is complete, you will be sent a Completion of Procedures Letter confirming the College’s final decision on your complaint.

Still not satisfied?

Once all internal procedures have been exhausted the College will not investigate the matter any further.

If you are unsatisfied with the outcome, however, you can ask for your case to be reviewed by the OIA.

Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

This option only becomes available to you after the College’s internal procedures have been completed. The College will send you a Completion of Procedures Letter at the appropriate time, after which you will have three months in which to refer your case to the OIA, if you meet their grounds for investigation.

How can the Advice Centre help?

An Advisor can assist you all the way from an initial enquiry all the way through to the end of the process. This advice would involve, but is not limited to:

  • Advising who to direct an informal complaint to
  • Attending meetings with you for any informal complaints
  • Assistance in completing and checking drafts of formal complaint forms
  • Going through your initial findings with you
  • Assistance in drafting your request for review
  • Going through your final outcome with you
  • Assistance in escalating your complaint to the OIA