Making a complaint to the University
What can I complain about?
If you are unhappy about something that the University has done (or has not done), you have a right to complain about this, and we are able to support you in doing so. You can complain about things like:
- - the quality and standard of any service that the University provides
- - failure to provide a service
- - the quality of the University’s facilities or learning resources
- - unfair treatment or inappropriate behaviour by a student or staff member
- - the failure of the University to follow an appropriate administrative process
- - dissatisfaction with University policies
The University won’t usually accept the following as complaints.
- - a routine, first-time request for a service
- - a request under Freedom of Information or Data Protection legislation
- - a request for information or an explanation of policy or practice
- - an appeal about an academic decision on assessment or admission
- - an issue which is being, or has been, considered by a court or tribunal
- - a request for compensation only
- - an attempt to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision following an investigation
It is normally only possible to complain about matters that occurred in the last six months. If what you are complaining about happened more than six months ago, but you have only just discovered that you have reason to complain, you will still be able to use the complaints process. In exceptional circumstances, complaints can be considered outside of this six-month time scale. If you are making a complaint after this deadline has passed, you will need to provide a compelling reason why your complaint should be considered late, we can help you with this.
Anyone who has been directly affected by the University’s services or policies is eligible to complain. This would include all current students and some members of the public. The University has a statutory ( this means required by law) obligation to ensure that all of its procedures (including complaints) are accessible, so if you require any reasonable adjustments to be made to the process in order to make it accessible to you, you can absolutely request this.
What will happen?
In order to complain, the first step is generally to raise your concerns with someone who has the power to address your issues at a local level. This is called a Stage 1 complaint, otherwise known as ‘frontline resolution’. If you are unsure who to complain to in the first instance, contact the Advice Place and we can help you to decide who to approach. For complaints about your degree or your course, your Programme Director or Head of School will typically be a good person to contact.
You should make clear what you are complaining about, how you have been affected, and what you would like the University to do to make things right. The complaints process is focused on resolution, so it’s worth spending some time thinking about what a satisfactory outcome would be. When raising your complaint, you should include your name, some contact information, and your matriculation number (if you are a current student). You can complain over the phone, in person, or via email.
Once your complaint has been received, this will be investigated by staff in the area you are complaining about. They should reply to you reasonably promptly with the outcome of their investigation and let you know what (if anything) they will do to resolve your complaint.
If you are still unhappy with the outcome of your complaint after completing Stage 1 of the process, you can request that this be escalated to Stage 2 by submitting a complaint form to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you take this step, your complaint will be looked into by the University’s complaints investigation team. It is likely that you will be invited to meet with an investigator to discuss your complaint. Our advisers can give you advice on how to prepare for this meeting, and in some cases accompany you.
It’s important to note that details of your complaint are likely to be shared with anyone that you name in your complaint, as well as relevant staff in the department(s) you are complaining about.
In some cases, it can be appropriate to avoid Stage 1 of the process and proceed straight to requesting a Stage 2 complaint investigation. This is more likely to be applicable in more serious or complex cases. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable approaching frontline staff with your complaint, contact the Advice Place and we can help you decide whether it’s appropriate to proceed directly to Stage 2.
How long will it take?
A Stage 1 (frontline) complaint should be investigated promptly. You should hear back within five working days. If it will take longer to investigate your complaint, this should be discussed with you.
Stage 2 complaints investigations can take longer. You should receive a decision within twenty working days (four calendar weeks) after submitting your complaint form. You should be made aware of any delays in your complaint investigation.
What if I am still not happy?
If you have received the outcome of a Stage 2 complaint, and you are still unhappy with the outcome, you can take your case to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The SPSO is an independent body which oversees complaints and appeals processes within the University and other public institutions. On reaching the end of the university’s complaints process, you will receive a letter detailing the outcome and explaining how to raise your complaint with the SPSO.
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