This report provides an analysis and summary of all types of formal complaints and
informal complaints received by the Dean of Students between 01 August 2007 and
31 July 2008. Informal and formal complaints are evaluated separately, where

The main findings of the report are that:

   -   The number of complaints to the OIA remained static with only one new case
       being sent to the OIA, which means that UWIC is performing better than most
       other Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in this respect (average 4 complaints
       per institution). This case was summarily dismissed by the OIA as being
   -   The total number of complaints received has remained broadly consistent
       with 2006-2007, although there are less formal and more informal complaints.
   -   The number of formal complaints recorded has dropped from 42 to 32, which
       may be attributable to improved handling of complaints at the informal stage.
   -   The number of informal complaints recorded has increased from last year
       from 30 to 41.
   -   The Complaints Procedure in UWIC appears to be working efficiently and
       despite the volume, a large majority of complaints are resolved quickly and
   -   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.
   -   There are no discernible trends in relation to mode of study, age, ethnicity, or
       language, gender or disability.
   -   Evaluation from complainants indicates that the process is working efficiently.
   -   97% of complaints were resolved informally or at the first formal stage of the

The report concludes that UWIC should:

   -   Monitor the operation of the updated Complaints Procedure to ensure any
       areas for improvement are identified;
   -   Continue to improve staff development relating to investigation of complaints,
       in response to queries received, by offering staff development sessions;
   -   Develop proposals for a revised structure for investigation of complaints to
       address the volume of complaints received;
   -   Continue to work closely with the Student Union, to bring student complaints
       to a satisfactory conclusion in a timely manner.

1.     Introduction

The purpose of this annual report on complaints is to present details and an analysis
of complaints received within UWIC during the academic year 2007-8 (a summary of
all the complaints received is attached). This analysis focuses on the complete
academic year, consistent with last year, so that more accurate comparisons can be
made between years.

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

Many complaints that arise get 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 Dean of Students, who is the Complaints Officer.

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

Throughout the academic year 2007-8 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 prove very popular.

The Complaints Procedure itself has been subject to a substantive review for the
academic year 2008-9 and has been approved by the Learning and Teaching Board
and Academic Board. This version is available on the website. The desire of
complainants to pursue complaints, academic appeals and bullying/discrimination
issues contemporaneously has again been a significant consideration this year, but
improvements made to the system have ensured that appropriate decisions have
been made in conjunction with the complainants.

Complaints form part of the quality assurance process and it remains essential that
the procedure is followed rigorously and deadlines adhered to. The increase in
volume of complaints represents an additional challenge for Schools in this regard
and training has been offered to staff on three occasions this year, increasing the
pool of colleagues available to undertake investigations. Very positive feedback on
the training was received from participants.

The publication of data and outcomes relating to complaints was once again
assessed as part of the 2008 Charter Mark inspection. The availability of the
procedure to the public, regular review of the procedure, the on-line system, reporting
to students through articles in Retro and rigorous tracking system in relation to the
annual report and analysis documents all contributed to a finding that the procedures
are fully compliant.

Evaluation by complainants was fully launched during 2007-8, with questionnaires
being sent to all complainants. There was a 21% response rate, with 81% of
respondents being either satisfied or very satisfied and that the procedure was easy
to follow, logical, fair and produced a reasonable outcome.

Liaison has continued during the year with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator
(OIA), which has oversight of students’ complaints in all HEIs; it also deals with
parents or guardians who act on behalf of students.

Statistics from the OIA’s Annual Report for 2007 indicate that it received 600 eligible
complaint applications during the calendar year, which is an average of 4 per
institution within the scheme, representing an increase of 29% on 2006. Of these,
26% were found to be justified. Only one new complaint from UWIC was lodged with
the OIA in 2006-2007, so UWIC remains well below the national average on the
number of complaints being taken to the OIA. The case taken to the OIA was
dismissed at the preliminary stage of investigation with the OIA finding in favour of
UWIC, stating that there was no case to answer.

The OIA recommendation from 2006-2007, that consideration of use of procedures
other than the complaints procedure should also be recorded when processing
complaints has been incorporated into the revised of the Complaints Procedure.

3.     Analysis

       3.1     Number of complaints:

               The number of formal complaints received between 1st August 2007
               and 31st July 2008 was 32, compared to 42 in the previous year, which
               covered the same twelve month period. This represents a significantly
               lower figure than in the previous year, which may be attributable to
               more complaints being successfully resolved at the informal stage, as
               there has been an increase in informal complaints.

               Informal complaints received have increased between 1st August 2007
               and 31st July 2008, with 41 being received, compared with 30 in the
               corresponding period last year.

               This suggests that the apparent trend of increasing numbers of
               complaints noted in recent years has ceased, with numbers reaching
               a plateau over the last two years.

               There are no formal statistics for complaints currently available from
               other HEIs to benchmark against, but informal email research
               conducted with members of The Association of Managers of Student
               Services in Higher Education, again suggests that a number of HEIs
               are experiencing similar volumes of complaints. However, it is
               inconsistent with the OIA who have experienced a 29% increase in
               complaints in 2007.
3.2   Source of complaints:

      The following figures indicate who formally complained in 2007-8
      (including ongoing complaints).

             Students             14      (this represents approximately -
                                           0.13%of the student population)
           Parents of students     4
           Members of Public      12
           AM/MP                   1
           Staff                   1
          Total                    32

      The informal complaints figures for 2007-8 are:

         Students                 24      (this represents approximately
                                           0.23%of the student population)
         Parents of students       3
         Members of the public    14
          Total                    41

      As for the last two years, the main source of complaints was students
      and the percentage of the total student population complaining
      decreased by 0.1% for formal complaints. Only one complaint was
      accompanied by a letter from an AM or MP.

      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. The involvement of parents was proportionally
      lower than the previous year.

      On average complaints from parents constituted around 12.5% of the
      formal complaints received, which is a larger proportion than last year
      (9%) but as the actual numbers involved are very small, analysis
      indicates that number of complaints from parents over the last two
      years has only increased slightly, although in a small number of cases
      there was evidence to suggest the student was the complainant in
      name only.

3.3   Source of complaints (Schools/Units):

      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 noted in 3.4 below:

         Cardiff School of Art and Design        -     5
         Cardiff School of Education             -     6
         Cardiff School of Health Sciences       -     4
         Cardiff School of Management            -     3
         Cardiff School of Sport                 -     2
         Academic Registry                       -     2
         LSC                                     -     1
         Facilities                              -     7
         ISD                                   - 1
         Human Resources                       - 1

      Total                                         32

      The informal complaints figures were:

         Cardiff School of Art and Design      -    2
         Cardiff School of Education           -    6
         Cardiff School of Health Sciences     -    2
         Cardiff School of Management          -    7
         Cardiff School of Sport               -    6
         Academic Registry                     -    3
         Finance                               -    1
         CMSR                                  -    1
         Facilities                            -    7
         Student Services                      -    1
         Estates                               -    1
         ISD                                   -    1
         Student Union                         -    1
         LSC                                   -    2

      Total                                         41

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

      However it should be noted that many 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)

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

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

       Cardiff School of Art and Design        -    4
       Cardiff School of Education             -    6
       Cardiff School of Health Sciences       -    3
       Cardiff School of Management            -    1
       Cardiff School of Sport                 -    1
       Academic Registry                       -    5
       Facilities                              -    8
       Collaborative Provision                 -    1
       Human Resources                         -    1
       Students                                -    1
       Finance                                 -    1
      Total                                         32
      Informal complaints, including those of parents, were focused on
      issues in the following Schools and/or Units:

       Cardiff School of Art and Design            -    1
       Cardiff School of Education                 -    4
       Cardiff School of Health Sciences           -    1
       Cardiff School of Management                -    4
       Cardiff School of Sport                     -    4
       Academic Registry                           -    7
       Finance                                     -    3
       Facilities                                  -    8
       Student Services                            -    2
       ISD                                         -    3
       Estates                                     -    1
       Collaborative & Partnership                 -    1
       Student Union                               -    1
       Unknown                                     -    1
      Total                                             41

      All Schools were the subject of at least one complaint, with the
      complaints being spread amongst the Schools and Units in a similar
      pattern to 2006-2007.

      However, once again it is important to note that many informal
      complaints 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:

      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. – 14
         Quality of resources/facilities - 8
         Requests for reimbursement of tuition fees/bursaries/other fees –
         Entry/interview procedures – 6
         Against a specific individual (staff or student) - behaviour, attitude
          etc. – 10
         Assessment, examinations and progression – 14
         Accommodation issues – 2
         Car parking - 6

      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.
      Learning experience related problems, including assessment,
      examination and progression, still remain the major source of formal
      complaints at around 38%, which is consistent with last year and the
      preceding year (40% and 39% respectively). Once again there is
      some occasional evidence of a lack of empathy and customer care
      with regard to students, consistent with the last two years. The OIA
      (2007) also reports that the largest number of complaints (around
      64%) concern academic matters, although these include academic
      appeals as well as complaints.

3.6   Part-time/full-time students:

      Formal and informal complaints involved 38 students, which is broadly
      consistent with numbers in 2006-2007. Of the 38 students, 4 were on
      part-time programmes, the rest were studying full-time; the part-time
      number represents around 10.5% of the student complaints in UWIC,
      which is similar to the number recorded last year and is much lower
      than the part-time/full-time ratio in UWIC.

      The number of part-time students complaining has remained
      proportionately low, possibly indicating a developing trend in the
      relationship between the amount of complaints received and the mode
      of study in students at UWIC, but there is no national benchmarking
      data available to make comparisons.

3.7   Age

      There was a disproportionate division of students complaining with 32
      students in the over 21 age group (44% of complainants) and 6 from
      the 18 -21 age group (8% of complainants). Amongst those over 21,
      the majority (17 students, 23% of complainants) fell into the 22-30 age

      As the over 21 age group represents approximately 65% of the
      student population, this suggests that the 18-21 cohort are
      proportionately less likely to complain.

      There is no discernable trend disclosed in relation to age from
      comparisons with previous years.

3.8   International students

      Five complainants, the same number as last year, were from
      international students from outside the EU. Three were Asian, one
      Chinese and one Omani, with three making informal complaints and
      two making formal complaints.

      No trend is discernible here due to the small numbers involved. As
      noted last year, most international students (including three of these),
      channel complaints through the international office and reach a
      satisfactory conclusion at the informal stage prior to accessing UWIC’s
      Formal Complaints Procedure.

3.9   Race
       As far as is discernable, 13 complainants were from ethnic minority
       groups. Of these complainants, 5 were Asian British, 3 were Asian, 1
       Chinese, 1 Italian, 1 Black British – African, 1 Black British Caribbean
       and 1 Omani,

       No complainants raised racial harassment as part of the grounds for
       their complaint.

       The proportion of complainants from ethnic minority backgrounds
       (around 18%) is significantly higher than last year’s figure (8%) but is
       significantly lower than the ratio of ethnic minority students within the
       whole student population in UWIC. It is also broadly consistent with
       the OIA statistic (15%).

       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.

       There is no discernable trend disclosed in relation to age from
       comparisons with previous years.

3.10   Gender:

       Thirty seven females and thirty six males made complaints, so around
       51% of complainants were female and 49% male. This contradicts
       figures for last year, but is consistent with previous years. These
       figures also broadly reflect the gender balance of students in UWIC
       and not wholly inconsistent with the findings of the OIA (46% Female,
       53% Male).

3.11   Disability

       Of the 38 UWIC students who complained, either formally or
       informally, 10 (26%) were registered with Student Services as having
       a disability. UWIC has around 734 students in total with a registered
       disability, which is about 7% of the student population. Given the wide
       variations over the last three years no trend is discernable from this,
       although it will continue to be monitored.

       4 of the complaints (10%) were referenced as being linked to a

       The OIA publishes the results of its monitoring process for disability,
       but does not comment on the issue or relate the percentage figures of
       complainants with a disability to the proportion of these types of
       students in higher education. However, 32 (about 5.3%) out of the 600
       complainants declared a disability, which is lower than the UWIC

3.12   Religion/belief

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

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

3.14   Welsh language

       This year complainants’ were asked if they were Welsh speakers for
       the first time. Whilst all complaints were made in writing in English,
       Welsh versions of the on-line and front-of-house pro forma are
       available. 4 complainants (5%) of complainants indicated that they
       were Welsh speakers.         This is proportionately lower than the
       population of Welsh speaking students in UWIC (11%).

3.15   Stage reached:

       Formal complaints were resolved at the following stages:

          Stage 1: 30 (includes 3 ongoing complaints)
          Stage 2: 2
          Stage 3: 0
          OIA: 0
          Investigations still ongoing: 3 at Stage 1

       97% of complaints (71) dealt with this academic year have been
       resolved before or at Stage 1 and only two have reached Stage 2.
       None have reached Stage 3 and only 1 has been sent to the OIA.

       As noted in previous years, the fact that almost all formal complaints
       get resolved early on in the process seems to indicate that the system
       continues to work effectively. No further action from the complainant
       remains the most common form of resolution.

3.16   Completion of Stages within the specified time frame:

       All complaints at Stage 1, except 1, were dealt with within the set
       timeframe. In the case where an extension was needed, this was
       agreed in advance, in writing with the complainant. The reason for
       delay in all cases was lack of availability of witnesses, due to leave

       Consistency has continued to improve through ensuring that all
       complaints are filtered through the Complaints Officer. Where a
       deadline is likely to be missed the complainant has been informed in
       writing and agreed to this.

       However, the volume of complaints has once again required a great
       proportion of the Complaints Officer’s time to be spent managing the
       process and related correspondence. The sustained volume of
       complaints represents a work flow issue, as predicted in the 2006-
       2007 report. Therefore it is recommended that proposals for a revised
       structure for investigation of complaints to address the volume of
       complaints received should be developed.
   3.17   Culpability by UWIC:

          Almost all complaints are resolved by means of a compromise
          agreement or the complainant deciding not to proceed any further
          once an explanation has been given.              On thirteen occasions
          resolutions were accompanied by a formal apology from UWIC in
          recognition that the university was at fault to some extent.

          One Stage 2 investigation concluded that the complainant had just
          cause to complain and that as a consequence UWIC was culpable.
          This matter was satisfactorily concluded with a settlement made taking
          account of costs incurred.

          As noted in previous years, the large majority of investigations 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 acknowledges its part in the

          However, many informal complaints were resolved by taking simple
          remedial action or providing advice to individuals, which did not
          involve any apportionment of responsibility.

4. Strengths

         Further improvements have been made to The Complaints Procedure
          for 2008 - 2009 following substantive review of experiences arising
          from the last version of the procedure.
         The on-line system works very well.
         Full Charter Mark compliance has been maintained.
         Thee co-ordination, tracking and reporting system has been improved.
         The evaluation system suggests that complaints are largely dealt with
          effectively and efficiently.
         The number of on line complaints has remained stable for the second
          year in succession, indicating that the publicity relating to the system
          continues to achieve its goal.
         There is no one particular locus or focus that gives rise to complaints;
          sources are generally evenly spread.
         Types of complaints are also fairly evenly spread.

5. Weaknesses

         Staff awareness of the procedure and related processes remains an
          area for development.
         The level of resource required to manage and advise on the
          processing of the volume of complaints restricts the time the
          Complaints Officer has available to prioritise other key developments.

6. Trends

         Procedures and systems are improving incrementally.
              There are no discernible trends in relation to mode of study, age,
               gender, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, disability or religion
               and belief.

  7. Recommendations

     7.1       The following actions have been implemented following the 2007
               report recommendations:

                  The Complaints Procedure has undergone substantive review
                   ready for 2008-2009 to address weaknesses identified by case
                  A revised staff development session has been prepared and
                   delivered, with greater focus on investigation of complaints;
                  The structure for investigation of complaints in light of the
                   increased volume of complaints has been reviewed and a paper is
                   being prepared for VCB, to include evidence from this report;
                  The evaluation process has been refined and expanded, with all
                   complaints receiving a questionnaire to complete, ensuring
                   continued Charter Mark compliance;
                  The system of ensuring that agreed actions dealing with proven
                   culpability by one or more parties have been completed has been
                   refined, to avoid future repetition.
                  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       The Academic Board is asked to consider the following proposals and
               recommendations for future work:

                  Monitor the operation of the updated Complaints Procedure to
                   ensure any loop holes are identified;
                  Continue to improve staff development relating to investigation of
                   complaints, in response to queries received, by offering staff
                   development sessions;
                  Develop proposals for a revised structure for investigation of
                   complaints to address the volume of complaints received;
                  Continue to work closely with the Student Union, to bring student
                   complaints to a satisfactory conclusion in a timely manner.

     7.3       The Academic Board is asked to comment and note the information
               provided about complaints in UWIC between August 2007 and July

  8. References
     OIA (2007), Annual Report.

Pam Ackroyd

September 2008

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