Complaints Report 2009-10 by c9L2e73

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									CARDIFF METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY

HIGHER EDUCATION CORPORATION

ACADEMIC BOARD: 11TH NOVEMBER 2011

REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR OF STUDENT AND REGISTRY SERVICES

COMPLAINTS – REPORT 2010-2011


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This report provides an analysis and summary of all types of formal complaints and informal
complaints received by the Director (Student and Registry Services) between 01 August 2010 and
31 July 2011. Informal and formal complaints are evaluated separately, where appropriate.

The main findings of the report are that:

 -   The number of complaints to the OIA has decreased, with no new complaints being sent to
     them in this academic year, down from two cases in 2009/10. This means that UWIC continues
     to perform better than most other Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in this respect. (The
     average complaints per institution for 2010/11 was 9.4).
 -   The total number of complaints received has increased very slightly by 4.35% (a difference of
     three complaints) in 2010/2011. This year, there have been less formal and more informal
     complaints.
 -   The number of formal complaints recorded has continued to drop, from 17 to 13, which may be
     attributable to improved handling of complaints at the informal stage and feedback being
     implemented from previous complaints.
 -   The number of informal complaints recorded has increased from last year, though remaining
     lower than 2008/9, from 49 in 2009/10 to 56 in 2010/11.
 -   The Complaints Procedure in UWIC appears to be working efficiently and despite the volume,
     the large majority of complaints are still resolved quickly and efficiently.
 -   The incidence of complaints is fairly evenly spread across the institution and the main causes
     of complaints remain related to issues directly affecting academic performance and
     progression, although fee/budget related issues have also been prominent this year.
 -   There are no discernible trends in relation to mode of study, age, ethnicity, language or
     gender. The number of disabled complainants remains small, but the proportion of disabled
     students making complaints continues to be disproportionately high and will be kept under
     review, although only two complaints were related to disability issues.
 -   This year 100% of complaints were resolved informally or at the first formal stage of the
     procedure, up from 95.5 % last year.

The report concludes that UWIC should:

                  Continue to monitor the operation of the updated Complaints Procedure to
                   ensure continued efficiency in the processing of complaints;
                  Continue to offer staff development relating to investigation of complaints
                   sessions;
                  Continue to work closely with the Student Union, to bring student complaints to a
                   satisfactory conclusion in a timely manner.




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1.   Introduction

     1.1 The purpose of this annual report on complaints is to present details and analysis of
         complaints received within UWIC during the academic year 2010-11. This analysis
         focuses on the complete academic year, consistent with the last four years, so that
         accurate comparisons can be made between years.

     1.2 The purpose of the analysis is to highlight any trends or significant areas of concern
         that need to be addressed, so that continuous improvement in UWIC’s programmes,
         support services and management can be achieved. Comparisons with last year’s
         reports are made where appropriate, in order to identify any possible longer term
         trends.

     1.3 Many complaints that arise are resolved informally and quickly at source, by individual
         members of staff. Whilst it would be desirable to implement a comprehensive system
         that would capture this data across the institution, it would not be practicable to ensure
         that all such complaints were recorded. However, there is effective recording of
         informal complaints received through the on-line pro forma system and those notified to
         the Director (Student and Registry Services), and the Complaints Officer who took up
         post in November 2010.

     1.4 Complaints are not generally counted as formal complaints unless there is evidence
         that the complainant has already attempted to resolve them informally. The exception
         to this rule is complaints received directly by members of The Vice Chancellor’s Board,
         either in writing or verbally, which are automatically counted as formal complaints
         because they are dealt with by the Complaints Officer and relevant Dean of School or
         Head of Unit and involve making an official response.

2.   Context

     2.1   Throughout the academic year 2010-11 the UWIC Complaints Procedure has been
           used to address all types of complaints from students, staff and the public with the on-
           line pro forma system continuing to be used for over a third of complaints received.

     2.2 The Complaints Procedure itself has been subject to monitoring for the academic year
         2010-11 and no changes to the procedure have been necessary for 2011-12, although
         some appended contact details have been updated following staffing changes. The
         procedure is available on the website. The desire of complainants to pursue
         complaints and academic appeals contemporaneously remains a significant
         consideration, but the established system of discussing such cases with Academic
         Registry has ensured that appropriate decisions have been made, in conjunction with
         the complainants.

     2.3   Complaints form part of the quality assurance process and it remains essential that the
           procedure is followed rigorously and deadlines adhered to. Undertaking complaint
           investigations still represents a challenge for Schools in terms of workload particularly
           at certain times of the year, for example in August when many staff are on leave.
           Training has once again been offered and successfully delivered to staff on two
           occasions this year, with positive feedback from attendees, again increasing the pool
           of colleagues available to undertake investigations.

     2.4   Regular liaison has continued during the year with the Office of the Independent
           Adjudicator (OIA), which has oversight of students’ complaints in all HEI. A joint
           meeting between the OIA, UWIC, Cardiff University and UWN, to look at best practice
           in complaints handling was held at the end of September 2010. The Director (Student

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              and Registry Services) attended the OIA’s Learning from Complaints Workshop in May
              2011 to ensure UWIC is kept updated with any changes.

      2.5     Statistics from the OIA’s Annual Report for 2010 highlight another record number of
              complaints with 1,341 received representing an increase of 33% on the previously
              record year of 2009. This was an average of 9.4 complaints per institution. Of those
              that were reviewed 14% were found to be justified or partly justified (a 4% drop on
              2009, which had decreased by 2% in 2008). No new complaints from UWIC were
              lodged with the OIA in 2010-2011, so UWIC remains well below the national average
              on the number of complaints being taken to the OIA.

      2.6     There has been a minimum 6 month handling time for reviews by the OIA, and 2010-
              11 saw a 15% membership subscription rise so that additional resource could be made
              available for case handling, to try and reduce this.

      2.7     The OIA has made no recommendations for improvement to the UWIC complaints
              procedure in 2010-2011.

      2.8     This year has seen the OIA implement a new recommendation regarding the total
              number of Completion of Procedures (CoP) letters issued in the Calendar Year 2010.
              These are recorded and sent to the OIA in January. Under UWIC’s complaints
              procedure 1 CoP letter was issued in the dates covered in this report between 1st
              August 2010 and 31st December 2010. This is expected to increase over the academic
              year, as further changes to the conditions under which CoP letters are issued.

      2.9     The Pathways Consultation by the OIA has completed its second round of
              consultation, and the findings are to be published during the academic year. The
              proposals included additional information in the OIA annual letter, the annual report
              format including the naming of institutions for complaints found justified, the
              appointment of an additional Board member, and extending the scheme to foundation
              degrees owned by FE colleges.

3. Analysis

      3.1     Number of complaints:

               3.1.1 The number of formal complaints received between 1st August 2010 and 31st
                     July 2011 was 13, compared to 17 in the previous year, which covered the
                     same twelve month period. This continues to represent a lower figure than in
                     the previous year, which may be attributable to more complaints being
                     successfully resolved at the informal stage.

               3.1.2 Informal complaints received have increased between 1st August 2010 and
                     31st July 2011, with 56 being received, compared with 49 in the corresponding
                     period last year.

               3.1.3 Following a 19% reduction in the number of complaints in 2009-2010, the
                     overall complaints received for 2010-2011 represents a 4.35% increase in the
                     number of complaints received in the previous year. The OIA has reported a
                     33% increase in complaints within the sector, so the slight increase seen by
                     UWIC is to be expected particularly when taking into account budget cuts and
                     course closures.

               3.1.4 There are still no formal statistics for complaints currently available from other
                     HEIs to benchmark against, but informal research conducted with members of

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               The Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education,
               suggests that there continues to be a wide variation in the volumes of
               complaints received by HEIs, so it is difficult to make comparisons. The fact
               there has been a slight increase in UWIC’s complaints is broadly consistent
               with the experience of the OIA, although not on the same scale (a record 33%
               increase in complaints in 2010).

3.2 Source of complaints:

       3.2.1 The following figures indicate who formally complained in 2010-11 (including
             ongoing complaints).

                     Students               7     (this represents approximately -
                                                   0.04% of the student population)
                     Parents of students    4
                     Members of Public      2
                      Total                 13

       3.2.2   The informal complaints figures for 2010-11 are:

                     Students              38     (this represents approximately
                                                           0.22%of the student population)
                     Parents of students    4
                     Staff                  2
                     Members of the public 12
                      Total                 56

       3.2.3 As for the last three years, the main source of complaints was students. The
             percentage of the total student population complaining fell for formal but
             increased for informal complaints.


       3.2.4 All the complaints from parents that proceeded to a formal stage were
             supported by letters from students giving permission for their parents to act on
             their behalf, to comply with Data Protection legislation. The involvement of
             parents in formal complaints was at the same level as the last three years (4
             complaints), but the number of informal complaints involving parents
             decreased from last year. Complaints from members of the public increased in
             both categories.

       3.2.5 Complaints from parents constituted around 31% of the formal complaints
             received, which is a higher percentage than last year.

3.3 Source of complaints (Schools/Units):

       3.3.1 Formal complaints, including those of parents and the public, emanated from
             the following Schools and/or Units, although it should be noted that the
             subject of the complaint may not be the School/Unit, as in 3.4 below:

                     Cardiff School of Art and Design     -   3
                     Cardiff School of Health Sciences    -   1
                     Cardiff School of Management         -   2
                     Cardiff School of Sport              -   3
                     Cardiff School of Education          -   1

                                                                                             4
                     Academic Registry                   - 2
                     International Office                - 1

                      Total                                13



       3.3.2   The informal complaints figures were:

                     Cardiff School of Art and Design           -     15
                     Cardiff School of Education                -     12
                     Cardiff School of Health Sciences          -     7
                     Cardiff School of Management               -     6
                     Cardiff School of Sport                    -     7
                     Academic Registry                          -     4
                     Student Services                           -     1
                     LSC                                        -     2
                     International Office                       -     1
                     UWIC Foundation                             -    1
                      Total                                           56

       3.3.3. As in previous years complaints emanated from all Schools in one form or
              another and were fairly evenly spread.


       3.3.4 It should also be noted that as in previous years some informal complaints
             related to minor issues that in many cases had not been raised with the
             School/Unit prior to forming the basis of a complaint.

3.4 Subject of complaints (Schools/Units)

       3.4.1 Complaints are not necessarily directed against the School/Unit they emanate
             from. For example, a student from Cardiff School of Education may have a
             complaint about his/her accommodation and not about the School.

       3.4.2 Formal complaints, including those of parents and ongoing ones, were
             focused on issues in the following Schools and/or Units:

                     Cardiff School of Education                -     1
                     Cardiff School of Art and Design           -     3
                     Cardiff School of Health Sciences          -     1
                     Cardiff School of Management               -     2
                     Cardiff School of Sport                    -     3
                     Academic Registry                          -     2
                     International Office                       -     1
                      Total                                           13

       3.4.3 Informal complaints, including those of parents, were focused on issues in the
              following Schools and/or Units:

                     Cardiff School of Management               - 2
                     Cardiff School of Art and Design           - 11
                     Cardiff School of Education                - 6


                                                                                         5
                     Cardiff School of Health Sciences              -     4
                     Cardiff School of Sport                        -     6
                     Academic Registry                              -    12
                     CMSR                                           -     2
                     Finance                                        -     6
                     Facilities                                     -     1
                     International                                  -     2
                     Sport Facilities                               -     1
                     Student Services                               -     1
                     Collaborative Provision                        -     1
                     Accommodation                                  -     1
                      Total                                              56


       3.4.4. All Schools were the subject of at least one formal complaint with the
              complaints being spread amongst the Schools and Units in a similar pattern to
              the last three years, although there has been a slight reduction in most
              Schools this year.

       3.4.5. It should also be noted that CSAD experienced a cluster of complaints relating
              to closures and CSE experienced six complaints about unsuccessful PGCE
              interviews, although only one was upheld. Also, Academic Registry was the
              subject of a number of complaints about Certificates/transcripts not being
              received.

       3.4.6 It is also important to note that once again many informal complaints across
             UWIC related to minor matters that had not been raised with the School or
             Unit prior to forming the basis of a complaint.

3.5 Types of complaints

       3.5.1 The types of formal complaints, including ongoing complaints, can be broadly
              categorised as follows:

                     Quality of the learning experience, relating, for example, to
                      organisation, delivery, support, feedback etc. – 4
                     Quality of resources/facilities - 1
                     Requests for reimbursement of tuition fees/bursaries/other fees – 2
                     Entry/interview procedures – 2
                     Against a specific individual (staff or student) - behaviour, attitude etc.
                      –2
                     Assessment, examinations and progression/withdrawal – 2


              N.B. In several cases a number of issues have been raised in one complaint,
              (although most of the issues have proved groundless), possibly in an effort to
              add weight to the complaint. In this analysis the principle issue has been
              recorded to try to provide a clear picture of the key areas of complaint.

       3.5.2 Learning experience related problems, including assessment, examination
             and progression, still remain the main source of formal complaints at around
             46%. Once again there is some occasional evidence of a lack of empathy
             and customer care with regard to students, although this has again reduced.
             The OIA (2010) also reports that the largest number of complaints they

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               receive involve academic-related matters, although these include academic
               appeals as well as complaints.

3.6 Part-time/full-time students

       3.6.1 Formal and informal complaints involved 45 students, which is an 11%
             increase on numbers in 2009-2010. Of the 45 students, 9 were on part-time
             programmes, the rest were studying full-time; the part-time number represents
             around 13% of the student complaints in UWIC, which is much higher than the
             percentage recorded last year (4.5%) and higher than the previous year (9%)
             and is slightly higher than the part-time/full-time ratio in UWIC.

       3.6.2 In the past four years there has been an apparent trend in the relationship
             between the number of complaints received and the mode of study in
             students at UWIC, in that complaints from part-time students remained
             proportionately low, however there is no national benchmarking data available
             to make comparisons, and this year the trend appears to have reversed. Of
             the 9 complaints, a third were related to finance issues.

3.7 Age

       3.7.1 Once again there was a disproportionate division in students complaining with
             34 students in the over 21 age group (around 49% of complainants, a 1%
             increase on last year which had increased from 5% in 2008-2009) and 11
             from the 18-21 age group (around 16% of complainants, a decrease on last
             year, 23%). Amongst those over 21, the majority (22 students, 32% of
             complainants, 27% in 2009-2010) once again fell into the 22-30 age group.

       3.7.2 As the over 21 age group represents approximately 71% of the student
             population, this confirms the previously identified trend that the 18-21 cohort
             are proportionately less likely to complain.

3.8 International students

       3.8.1 Eleven complaints were from international students from outside the EU. This
             accounts for 16% of the overall complaints received this year. This represents
             an increase of 175% in international complaints from last year, although the
             numbers of complaints remains low, so the actual change is not so significant
             (7 more complaints). The increase may also be due to the increased numbers
             of international students enrolled, approximately 16% higher than 2009/10.
             The OIA(2010 report) states that 22% of the complaints they received are
             from international students, with international students continuing to be over-
             represented within the OIA system. Of the international fee paying students
             who complained one was Indian, eight were Asian, and two were unknown
             background.


       3.8.2 No trend is discernible here due to the small numbers involved in previous
             years. However this year we have received a proportionately higher number
             of complaints, so this may develop into a trend in future years. Some
             international students also channel complaints through the International Office
             and reach a satisfactory conclusion at the informal stage prior to accessing
             UWIC’s Complaints Procedure.



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3.9    Race

       3.9.1 As far as is discernable, 15 complainants were from ethnic minority groups.
             Of these complainants, 3 were Asian, 3 were Asian/Indian, 3 were Other
             Asian, 1 German, 1 Other Mixed background, 3 were Asian-Pakistani, and 1
             Asia-Bangladeshi.

       3.9.2 The proportion of complainants from ethnic minority backgrounds (around
             22%) is higher than last year’s figure (around 14%) but remains lower than the
             ratio of ethnic minority students within the whole student population in UWIC.

       3.9.3 Three complainants raised racial harassment or discrimination as part of the
             grounds for their complaint, there were none last year.

       3.9.4 However investigations have shown there is no evidence of racial prejudice by
             staff or other students or of any institutional racism. There is no benchmarking
             data currently available nationally on this issue.

       3.9.5 There is no discernable trend in complaints in relation to race from
             comparisons with previous years.


3.10   Gender

       3.10.1 Thirty one females and thirty eight males made complaints, so around 45% of
              complainants were female and 55% male. The number of male complainants
              increased slightly (by 6), whilst females decreased (by 3).

       3.10.2 It is still not possible to identify a trend in the statistics over recent years as
              the gender balance changes from year to year, although in previous years the
              figures for the last five years have been within 5% of each other each year,
              suggesting that there is no significant disparity in terms of gender, this year
              they are within 10%. These figures are also proportionately close to the
              gender balance of students in UWIC which is approximately 47% female, and
              53% male, and the gender balance of complaints received by the OIA at 47%
              female and 53% male.

       3.10.3 Of the International complaints whilst the numbers are much smaller making it
              difficult to identify trends, approximately 27% of complainants were female,
              and 73% male.




3.11   Disability

       3.11.1 Of the 45 UWIC students who complained, either formally or informally, 7
              (15.6%) were registered with Student Services as having a disability. UWIC
              has around 835 students in total with a registered disability, which is about 5%
              of the student population. The number of disabled students complaining has
              increased slightly on last years 64% reduction, and it still suggests that
              disabled students are proportionately more likely to complain, so this will
              continue to be monitored as an emerging trend.


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       3.11.2 However, only 2 of the complaints (4.4%) were referenced as being linked to a
              disability.

       3.11.3 The OIA publishes the results of its monitoring process for disability, and has
              identified that out of 171 monitoring forms received, 76 registered a disability.
              Although this is once again an incomplete return (around 13%), it does
              suggest that approx 6% of complainants to the OIA have a disability.
              Unfortunately, the OIA does not comment on the issues raised in this context.

3.12   Religion/belief

       3.12.1 No record is kept of complainants’ religion or belief, so it is not possible to
              comment on this area.

3.13   Sexual orientation

       3.13.1 Similarly, no record is kept of complainants’ sexual orientation.

3.14   Welsh language

       3.14.1 Whilst all complaints were made in writing in English, Welsh versions of the
              on-line and front-of-house pro forma are available. 3 complainants (4%) of
              complainants indicated that they were Welsh speakers. This is less than the
              20% registered for last year which was the first year of recording this
              category. This was proportionately higher than the population of Welsh
              speaking students in UWIC (approx 14.85%).

       3.14.2 However, no complaints related to Welsh language provision this year.

3.15   Stage reached

       3.15.1 Formal complaints were resolved at the following stages:

                        Stage 1: 13
                        Stage 2: 0
                        Stage 3: 0
                        OIA: 0

       3.15.2 100% of complaints (69) dealt with this academic year have been resolved
              before or at Stage 1 and none have reached Stage 2 or 3. Last year, 1
              reached Stage 2. This year none have been sent to the OIA currently.

       3.15.3 As in previous years, the majority of complaints get resolved early on in the
              process which seems to indicate that the system continues to work effectively.
              No further action from the complainant following action taken remains the
              most common form of resolution.




3.16   Completion of stages within the specified time frame

       3.16.1 All complaints at Stage 1 were dealt with within the recommended timeframe.
              In the informal investigation stages there were 2 cases where an extension


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                      was needed due either to lack of availability of witnesses or to leave/other
                      commitments, which remains a challenge for investigating officers particularly
                      for complaints raised in July/August. However, the complainants were kept
                      informed of progress throughout.

               3.16.2 Consistency has continued to improve through training and management of
                      the flow of complaints through the Complaints Officer.

               3.16.3 The volume of complaints remains a challenge, but an increase in the number
                      of colleagues trained to undertake investigations has helped to alleviate some
                      of the difficulties, together with the appointment of a Complaints Officer in
                      November 2010.


      3.17     Culpability by UWIC

               3.17.1 Many complaints are resolved by action being taken to address the complaint
                      or advice being provided to the complainant within the relevant School or Unit,
                      without any apportionment of blame. In a number of cases the complainant
                      has also decided not to proceed any further once an explanation has been
                      given and in one case there has been a partial refund of tuition fees.
                      Complaints were upheld on 22 occasions, where UWIC admitted some
                      culpability and offered apologies. Five disciplinary investigations (two involving
                      groups of students) were held as a result of complaints received, and
                      appropriate action taken in all cases under the procedure.

               3.17.2 The large majority of investigations continue to indicate that there ‘two sides to
                      the story’ and in a significant number of cases, faults or misunderstandings
                      can be attributed to all parties involved. Where this has been proven, UWIC
                      acknowledged its part in the events.

      3.17     Environmental Complaints

               3.18.1 This is a new category introduced last year. There have been no complaints
                      received under the procedure, relating to environmental matters in 2010-2011,
                      consistent with the 2009-10.


4. Strengths

                             The Complaints Procedure remains fit for purpose, as tested by the
                              OIA.
                             The on-line system and email system works well with over a third of
                              complaints being received through the on-line system.
                             Additional training is improving functionality of system by providing
                              more Investigating Officers.
                             The evaluation system suggests that complaints are largely dealt with
                              effectively and efficiently.
                             Types of complaints remain fairly evenly spread.




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5. Weaknesses

                             Staff awareness of the procedure and related processes continues to
                              be an area for development.


6.      Trends

                             Procedures and systems continue to improve incrementally.
                             There are no discernible trends in relation to mode of study, age,
                              gender, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation or religion and belief.
                             There remains a pattern indicating that disabled students are
                              proportionately more likely to complain, although most of the
                              complaints are not disability related. This will continue to be kept
                              under review with the Disability Service Manager.

7. Recommendations

        7.1 The following actions      have    been   implemented     following   the   2009   report
            recommendations:

               7.1.1. Monitored and updated the Complaints Procedure to identify loop holes and
                      refinements;
               7.1.2 Continued to improve staff development relating to investigation of complaints,
                      in response to queries received, by offering staff development sessions;
               7.1.3 The Complaints Officer has been appointed to the role in November 2010.
               7.1.4 The Complaints Officer continues to work closely with the Student Union, to
                      bring student complaints to a satisfactory conclusion in a timely manner.

        7.2 Academic Board is asked to note the following proposals and recommendations for
           future work:

               7.2.1  Continue to monitor the operation of the updated Complaints Procedure to
                      ensure continued efficiency in the processing of complaints;
               7.2.2 Continue to offer staff development relating to investigation of complaints
                      sessions;
               7.2.3 Continue to work closely with the Student Union, to bring student complaints
                     to a satisfactory conclusion in a timely manner.

        7.3 Academic Board is asked to comment on the proposals and note the information
           provided about complaints in UWIC between August 2010 and July 2011.




     8. References
        OIA (2010), Annual Report.




Rob Cummings
Director of Student and Registry Services
21 September 2011


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