Student Complaints Policy & Procedures

This policy document is about non-academic complaints; for academic complaints please see the document entitled “Academic Appeal Policy and Procedure” which can be found on Moodle.

Related policies

Equality and Diversity Policy – Prevent Policy – Data Protection Policy – Health and Safety Policy – Welfare Policy – Bullying & Harassment Policy – Student Engagement – Staff Development

Applicability

This policy is applicable to all learners. The term ‘learner’ includes – a) those applying for a place on any course, b) current students, c) recent former students and graduates who have completed the qualifications / left the College within last 3 months (from the date of complaint). The policy is also applicable to the College Welfare Officer, teaching staff, learning support staff and any other staff including admin staff who have a direct or indirect involvement in facilitating a good learning experience for the learners. (QAA Advice and Guidance- Terminology).

It is equally applicable to senior management to ensure systemic identification of issues and the implementation of remedies. (Guiding principle 1)

For the purpose of this policy, a Concern means comment /s by a student, maybe oral or in writing or via social media about the quality of learning opportunities or about any service provided by the College. A Complaint means an explicit query about any aspect of experience / learning opportunities offered by the College. An Appeal is a request for a review of a decision about the outcome / decision of an earlier complaint. An appeal could be about the procedure or about the evidence but not on the basis of disagreement with academic judgement. (QAA Advice and Guidance- Terminology, Guiding principle 3)

1. Purpose and scope of the procedure

1.1 This document describes the process for the management of complaints for students on all HND and DET courses at Mont Rose College of Management and Sciences (the College). The Top-up and Foundation courses are governed by Bucks New University’ policy and procedure in this regard. In all cases, the College will abide by the QAA UK Quality Code (Nov. 2018) – Advice and Guidance on Concerns, Complaints and Appeals as well as the OIA’s good practice framework. The purpose of the complaints procedure is to ensure that, as far as possible, complaints are dealt with and resolved informally through discussion between the aggrieved student and staff. Complaints and concerns could be raised by a student or students in writing or orally (There is a separate procedure for student academic appeals.) Before using the complaints procedure, it is expected that a student will try to resolve the complaint informally with the full support from the College staff. The formal stage of the procedure should only be used when the informal stage has failed to resolve the issue or is not making progress at reasonable speed.

1.2 This procedure will be reviewed annually or earlier in line with developments in best practice/guiding principle/good practice framework/ legal developments etc. to keep it current, fit for purpose and also to keep it aligned with the needs of the learners. Such reviews will consider the students’ needs as well as learning from previous cases. The College will share the outcomes of such reviews with the student union but will not disclose the details of individual cases keeping in mind the GDPR 2018. (Guiding principle 1, 7)

1.3 The College will keep effective records including the sufficiently detailed reasons for decisions on any complaints. These decisions (with reasons) are shared with those who made complaint/s with any evidence considered. (Guiding principle 3)

1.4 The learners (as defined above, in applicability) need to raise the issue, whether formally or informally, within 3 months of the incident taking place. Learners who have left the College / completed their courses can also raise the issue/s provided the same is done within the above time limit i.e. within 3 months of the incident taking place.

2. Principles of the procedure
2.1 The procedure is based on the following principles:

  • This procedure will be made available to all learners by making it available on the College website. A printout of the same is also available on demand. (Guiding principle 2, 3)
  • Learners can complain about any deficiency in their learning experience because of lack of action / facilities provided by the College. The following are few examples:
  • poor teaching or supervision;
  • misleading information in website contents or in advertising or promotional material;
  • a failing in a College service, academic or non-academic;
  • inadequate facilities;
  • the behaviour of a member of College staff – whether admin or teaching.
  • While a concern or a complaint can be made orally or in writing, if it is not possible to solve it informally, it must be made in writing (using the Students Complaint Form in Annexure 1) by the student/s to their respective faculty team leaders. Like, HND Marketing students can make the complaint to HND Marketing team leaders. Alternately, they may send it on email to the MRC Student Welfare Officer at: studentwelfare@mrcollege.ac.uk.

In the complaint, the students must state clearly the outcome they expect from the resolution of the complaint. (Guiding principle 3)

The following are not covered by the procedure:

  • A request for a review of a decision of an academic body (e.g. Assessment Board) regarding student progression, assessment and award. This is defined as an Academic Appeal and is dealt with under the Academic Appeals Policy  and Procedure.
  • The complaints procedure cannot be used to challenge decisions relating to admissions. In this regard, a reference may be made to Policy & Procedure for Admissions Appeals and Complaints.
    (Guiding principle 3)
  • A learner has the right to be accompanied by a colleague/union representative or a friend at every stage of the formal procedure. (Guiding principle 2)
  • If there is an issue which is faced by a group of learners, they have the right to make a joint complaint as a group as long as they name someone in the group as representative and allow him/her in writing to represent them. (Guiding principle 3)
  • To become formal, any complaint must be made in writing as soon as possible. The College will attend to only those complaints which are within its power to redress. For such complaints which are not in the power of the College to redress, learners will be guided accordingly.
  • In all cases, reference to informal resolution procedure is recommended first, before proceeding to the formal procedure. Questions to consider in attempting early resolution of concerns might include (OIA GPF 2/44):
    • What specifically is the concern about and which area(s) of the provider 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 an apology?
    • Can someone else assist in seeking resolution, for example where an informal administrative resolution is required?
    • Would it be helpful to use confidential mediation or conciliation, and are the student and the provider willing to do so?
    • What assistance or support can be provided to the student in taking this forward?
    • All proceedings, whether informal or formal, should, as far as practical, remain confidential. (OIA GPF 2/40)
    • The College shall review and analyse any cases of formal complaints annually to take guidance from the same for future. The outcomes of such reviews shall be shared with the Student union / Class Representatives without divulging the details of individual cases including details of the learners. A year-on-year comparison shall also be made to observe the trends and to take any action required for future improvement. (Guiding Principle 1)
    • A formal record of any hearing will be made available to the concerned complainant to keep the communication clear and understandable. (Guiding principle 2, 3). The hearing will be recorded and a copy will be given to the student. Notes need to be taken for every meeting, setting out attendance, a brief outline of the proceedings, and the reasons for the decisions taken. (OIA GPF 2/65)
    • Where it is clear that the informal resolution is not appropriate or possible, and that a complaint will need to proceed immediately to the formal stage, the learner will be directed promptly to the relevant procedure. He or she will be advised to complete the appropriate form to provide full details of the complaint and to provide any relevant documentation. The student will be informed of any time limits for submission and where and how to access advice and support, for example the students’ union or student representative(s), the Student Welfare Officer, any relevant professional association or the relevant trade union. (OIA GPF 2/47)
    • The timescales set out may be extended with the agreement of the complainant. When the College asks for information, it will set a deadline for the response. The deadline will normally be 14 days but that will be flexible subject to the quantum nature of the information asked for. (OIA G PF 1/40.5)
    • On occasions, there may be cases / exceptional circumstances which require the College to take particularly swift action. These may include, but are not limited to (OIA GPF 2/52):
      • complaints involving a threat of serious harm
      • cases where the impact of the issues raised has detrimental consequences for the student’s mental health or where the student displays significant distress
      • complaints relating to disability support
      • issues of serious and repeated service failure and/or significant delay
      • issues of a highly sensitive nature.
      • An individual displaying significant distress.

      In all such cases, the College senior management as well as the College Welfare Officer will take action to protect the interest as well as the health and well-being of the concerned leaner/s. Such action could include but not be limited to, arranging immediate support, allowing extra time for submission of assignments, providing pastoral support, involving emergency services etc. If it involves any hearing, the same should be arranged as quickly as possible with the agreement of all parties concerned. (Guiding principle 5)

      • Where two or more learners have lodged complaints relating to the same or substantially the same issue, such complaints may be dealt with together in the interests of fair and consistent decision-making.
      • The College shall ensure to impart proper training to those staff who are involved in handling the complaints. It will include, but not be limited to, nominating the team leaders to the Office of Independent Adjudicator workshops / annual conferences. (Guiding principle 1)
      • The Student Welfare Officer should be well trained in equality and diversity to support the students effectively. (Guiding principle 2)
      • Current Case studies from OIA will be shared with the concerned staff to keep their knowledge current. (Guiding principle 1)

2.2 Complaints the College can and cannot accept/review

2.2.1 The College can look at “qualifying complaints”, a term which is defined in the Higher Education Act 2004 (Section 12). The complaint must be about an “act or omission of a qualifying institution”, that is, something the higher education provider has done or failed to do. (OIA GPF 1/28)

2.2.2 The College cannot accept/review a complaint concerning a student who has died unless the Complaint Form was received before their death. The Higher Education Act 2004 (section 12) says that a complaint must be “made by a person…as a student or former student”. That means that the student themselves must make the complaint to us. This is because the College needs to be sure that the student intended to pursue their complaint. If a student’s personal representatives ask the College, it can continue with a review of a student’s complaint after they have died, but only if the College received the student’s Complaint Form during their lifetime. (OIA GPF 1/14.4)

2.2.3 The College may decide not to accept/review a complaint if it believes that it has no serious purpose, or is intended to cause disruption or annoyance, or if the student is seeking an unrealistic remedy (OIA GPF 1/34). The following are examples of the type of complaint which we may decide not to accept/review under this Rule (OIA GPF 1/34):

  • 2.2.3.1 We have considered the same complaint previously, and we have decided not to reopen our review.
  • 2.2.3.2 The complaint is about something which a fair-minded person would consider to be trivial.
  • 2.2.3.3 The student is pursuing the complaint in a way that is having a negative effect on our staff or our work.
  • 2.2.3.4 The complaint is designed to cause disruption or annoyance.
  • 2.2.3.5 The student is asking for a remedy which lacks any serious purpose or value.
  • 2.2.3.6 The complaint raised is frivolous or vexatious or unreasonable in nature (Guiding principle 4)

The appeals process is divided into three stages, informal, formal and right of appeal. Appeal submissions should be as clear and concise as possible, concentrating on the grounds for the appeal and linked to the evidence. It is the right of a student to withdraw from the appeal process at any time. However, no student will be put at any disadvantage of any kind just on the grounds of bringing an appeal.

3. Informal stage
3.1 If a student has a complaint that involves another student or other students, they should first of all try to resolve the matter by direct approach to the student or students involved.

3.2 If the matter remains unresolved, the student may request a meeting with a relevant staff member and efforts made to resolve the issue. Any informal meeting with staff should be held within 10 working days of the submission of the request. Many student complaints are likely to take the form of suggestions for improvement (e.g. more library books, changed teaching hours, facility for smokers etc.) and can be dealt with informally without a complaints’ hearing panel, in a regular committee meeting of the College and using the normal and routine student voice and student representative processes of the College. (OIA GPF 2/60)

3.3 If, after any action to resolve the complaint taken by staff, the student is still dissatisfied, they may proceed to the formal stage of the procedure.

4. Formal stage[1]
4.1 If the complaint has not been resolved at the informal stage and the student wishes to proceed to the formal stage, the student may do so (using the Students Complaint Form in Annexure 1) and the complaint will be heard by a hearing panel or in a relevant committee meeting (e.g. Academic and Quality Assurance Board). The student must set out in writing the nature of their complaint and the reasons why they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal stage. The student should explain how they think it should be settled. This must be submitted to the respective Team Leaders. Complaints raised against the Team Leaders should be submitted to the Academic Director. Those against the Academics Director should be addressed to the Governing Body. In all cases a copy of the complaint should be sent to the Principal. Guiding Principle 3 (OIA GPF 2/60)

4.2 It is essential to be clear about exactly what is being investigated to ensure that both the staff member and student understand the purpose and scope of the investigation. The staff member should consider meeting with the student to facilitate this. If the student’s expectations appear to go beyond what the provider can reasonably deliver or what is in its power to deliver, the staff member should explain this to the student as soon as possible in writing in order to manage expectations about possible outcomes. Guiding Principle 3, (OIA GPF 2/55)

4.3 Should the complaint relate to a process or decision; the Principal will appoint another person as investigating officer who will be asked to provide a full written report together with any relevant documents. The investigation should be conducted as quickly as possible while allowing for all relevant information and evidence to be gathered. A timescale for this will be agreed between the student and the Principal but will be kept limited to maximum 30 days from the date of complaint. (OIA GPF 2/61)

4.4 Should the complaint be against a named individual or individuals; the Principal will give them a copy of the complaint at the earliest opportunity. The individual will present their response at the hearing and it would not normally be necessary to conduct an investigation. Complaints about named individuals will not be dealt with in routine committee meetings of the college. (OIA GPF 2/57)

4.5 The hearing panel will consist of two nominees of the Principal who will be well experienced in such matters, senior and also with up to date information in the area of handling complaints. Provided they are not related to the matter, these nominees may be the Team Leaders or any such senior teachers. They will not be connected with the matter in any way and shall have no conflict of interest. (Guiding principle 6). Where possible, there should be a gender balance on hearing panels. The college will make every attempt to ensure that the hearing will be held within 14 working days of receipt of the investigating officer’s report, or within 14 working days of the complaint being received if it is against an individual where no investigation is needed. The student will be given 5 working days’ notice that the hearing is to be held. The student may request an alternative date to allow up to an additional 5 working days if their representative is unavailable. If, following a reasonable attempt to rearrange the hearing, the student is still unable to attend, they may send an authorised representative (the letter of authorisation should be received prior the meeting), or the hearing may be held in their absence.

4.6 The complainant should ensure that they attend the meeting at the specified time. If they are unable to attend because of circumstances beyond their control, they should inform the Principal and/or the chair of the hearing panel as soon as possible. If they fail to attend without explanation, or it appears that they have not made sufficient attempts to attend, the hearing may take place in their absence. Both the parties shall be allowed equal opportunity to present their case and to see all the evidence. No party shall be favoured or disfavoured in any manner. The College shall also take into account various legislation in force like Equality Act 2010, guidance from Competition and Markets Authority, QAA and OIA while applying this policy and also while reaching the decisions. Guiding Principle 2, 6

4.7 Any relevant written information or evidence must be made available to all parties at the earliest opportunity and, in any case, 2 working days before the hearing.

4.8 Refusal of either party to attend shall not invalidate the proceedings.

4.9 The hearing panel, in seeking to resolve the complaint, may adjourn the meeting or defer a decision if more information is required.

4.10 The decision of the hearing panel, the reasons for that decision and any redress will be communicated to the student who has made the complaint. Where the complaint is against an individual, both parties will be given a copy of the decision. This will be handed to the student whenever possible or posted directly by recorded delivery to the student within 10 working days (Guiding principle 8) of the hearing and to the student representative, where applicable. The decision should also give information about (OIA GPF 2/67):

  • the student’s right to take the complaint to the review stage
  • the grounds on which he or she can do so
  • the time limit for escalating to the review stage
  • the appropriate procedure
  • where and how to access support.
  • If the complaint has been rejected, for example because it has been submitted late, the provider should issue a Completion of Procedures letter.

4.12 Failure to meet the requirements of redress set out by the hearing panel will result in the invocation of the Disciplinary policy and procedure, unless an appeal has been lodged.

4.13 The formal stage should be completed within 30 working days and the student will be provided with the written outcome of the formal stage. (QAA Indicator 4 & 5, Chapter –B9)

5. Right of appeal

5.1 Should the complainant wish to appeal against the decision of the hearing panel they must do so, in writing, to the Principal within 5 working days of being informed of the decision. The form titled Students Complaint Form – Formal Appeal (Annexure 2) should be completed for this purpose. (OIA GPF 2/39)

5.2 If the student does not take the complaint to the review stage within the time limit for doing so, the College will close the matter and will notify the student in writing. It will issue a “Completion of Procedures letter” at this stage if the student asks the College to do so, but the letter should explain that the student has not completed the provider’s internal processes. (OIA GPF 2/68)

5.3 A request for an appeal must specify the grounds of the appeal, preferably under one or more of the following headings:

  • Procedure irregularity at the formal stage;
  • New evidence which was not available earlier;
  • The new evidence shows that earlier outcome (which was reached in absence of this evidence) was unreasonable.

5.4 The appeal will be considered within 14 working days and the Completion of Procedure Letter and related correspondence will be issued confirming the summary of the complaint procedure and outcomes. If the settlement is offered, a “Completion of Procedures Letter” will be issued confirming the settlement. If the student rejects the offer, the “Completion of procedures letter” will be issued showing a summary of proposals. (OIA GPF 2/79)

5.5. The formal “Completion of Procedures Letter” is issued to the student within 28 working days after the final decision is made. (OIA GPF 2/77)

If the student is still dissatisfied with the outcome, he / she may apply for a review of the complaint to the Office of the Independent adjudicator (OIA) for higher education as the College is a qualifying institution in this regard. (OIA GPF 2/80)

The complaint should be received by the Office of the Independent adjudicator (OIA) (www.oiahe.org.uk) within twelve months of the date of the “Completion of Procedures Letter” (OIA GPF 2/78)

6. Guidance for appeal documentation:

The College will make sure to keep records properly in case of student complaints. The following is the list of important documents in chronological order: (the same is not exhaustive as the documents differ on case to case basis)

  • Student’s original complaint, duly dated with any evidence to support the complaint;
  • The date the complaint is received – informal stage;
  • The outcome sought / expected;
  • Management’s version at informal stage;
  • Outcome of informal stage with date;
  • Date appeal received at formal stage, if any;
  • Grounds of appeal – formal stage;
  • Response to grounds of appeal- formal stage;
  • Case statement, which should include, as appropriate;
  • An introduction explaining the reasons for appealing;
  • Summary of case;
  • Record of hearings, if any.
  • Outcome of appeal, with date;
  • Date “Completion of Procedures letter” issued, if any;
  • Date review requested, if any;
  • Outcome of Review;
  • Date of “Completion of Procedures letter” after Review;
  • Outcome at OIA level.

If documents are prepared and presented in this way it should be possible for the secondary appeal hearing only to hear any specific comments or particular aspects of the case, rather than a repetition of the original hearing.

The policy is reviewed and approved by Academic/Quality Assurance Board annually / earlier for enhancement purpose. Guiding principle 2

Bibliography

Annexe: 1

For MRC Use Only
Date Received
Processed By
Review Outcome

STUDENT COMPLAINT FORM – FORMAL COMPLAINT

This form is to be completed for all complaints to be dealt under formal stage of the Student Complaints Procedure and should be sent to the team leaders of their respective course.

Alternately, it may be emailed to MRC Student Welfare officer at:

Email: studentwelfare@mrcollege.ac.uk

Independent help and advice about completing this form can be obtained from the MRC Students’ Union.

Complete in block capitals or type.

 

The Student Complaints Policy and Procedure is available at the College website.
DETAILS OF COMPLAINT – TO BE COMPLETED BY STUDENT

Name[2]: Student ID:
Programme: Level:
Year of Study:
Address for correspondence in connection with the complaint:

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Postcode…………………………………………. Telephone Number …………………………………………………..

E-mail………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Outline of complaint, including dates of actions (please use additional sheets if necessary)
Please explain here what steps you have taken, together with dates, to resolve your complaint informally:
Please explain why you are dissatisfied with the response you have received at informal stage:

As part of the investigation of your complaint, any member of staff mentioned will be made aware of the complaint, as will the Academics Director and/or Principal.

 

Please indicate, without prejudice, what outcome or further action you are expecting

Declaration

I declare that the information given in this form is true, and that I would be willing to answer further questions if necessary.

Signed: Date:

Following section of form to be completed by relevant staff

To be completed by Team Leader:

Date form received: Date form acknowledged:
Details (and date) of person appointed to investigate:
Date investigation was completed:
College decision on complaint
Upheld Partially Upheld Not Upheld
Please include further details if relevant:

Date of letter to complainant advising outcome:

(NB if complaint is not upheld, letter should inform complainant of further stage of Complaints Procedure and

grounds for taking the matter further)

Once the complainant has been advised of the outcome of the investigation, a copy of this section of the form and a copy of the letter advising the complainant of the outcome of the complaint should be sent to the Academic/Quality Assurance Board.

Annexe 2

For MRC Use Only
Date Received
Processed By
Review Outcome

STUDENT COMPLAINT FORM – FORMAL APPEAL ON A DECISION TAKEN

This form is to be completed for all complaints to be dealt with under Appeal stage of the Student Complaints Procedure and should be sent to the team leaders of their respective course.

Alternately, it may be emailed to MRC Student Welfare officer at:

Email: studentwelfare@mrcollege.ac.uk

Independent help and advice about completing this form can be obtained from the MRC Students’ Union.

This form should only be used if you have received the outcome of a formal stage complaint and you are dissatisfied with the outcome.

The Student Complaints Procedure is available at the College website.
DETAILS OF COMPLAINT – TO BE COMPLETED BY STUDENT

Name Student ID
Programme: Level:
Year of Study:
Address for correspondence in connection with the complaint

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

………………………………………………………………………Postcode………………………………………………

Email……………………………………………… Telephone Number …………………………………………………..

An appeal/request for review can only be submitted on one or more of the following grounds.  Please indicate the ground(s) for your appeal by ticking the appropriate box.
A.     that there was a procedural irregularity at formal stage of the Student Complaints Procedure which has materially disadvantaged the student;
B.     the emergence of new and relevant evidence which, for good and reasonable cause, was not available during formal stage.
C.    that evidence is available to show that the outcome reached at an earlier stage was manifestly unreasonable. In this context, unreasonable shall be taken to mean perverse, i.e. that the outcome was not a possible conclusion which a similar hearing or process of consideration might have reached.
In relation to the ground(s) you have indicated above (A, B or C), please explain for each relevant ground why you are dissatisfied with the response you have received from the College at formal stage of the Student Complaints Procedure. 

Ground A

Please explain why you believe that there was a ‘procedural irregularity’ in how your complaint has been considered at a previous stage of the process and how you believe this has affected the outcome.

Ground B

Please list the evidence you intend to use, explain why this was not available at an earlier stage of the complaints procedure and its relevance to your complaint (attach any relevant information).

Ground C

Please explain why you believe the outcome reached at an earlier stage was ‘manifestly unreasonable’ and the evidence you wish to use to support this (attach any relevant information).

 

Please indicate, without prejudice, what outcome or further action you are expecting:

Declaration

I declare that the information given in this form is true, and that I would be willing to answer further questions relating to it if necessary.

Signed: Date: