STUDENT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE – GUIDANCE FOR HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS
The following guidance is for the use of Heads of Department when dealing with
student complaints. The full Student Complaints Procedure can be found as
Appendix 1 to the Student Regulations
The University defines a student complaint as a complaint levelled by a student against
another student, member of staff, service or facility of the University. A student is defined
as a person who has been accepted to study at the University, a student registered for an
award of the University, or a former student who has left the institution within the last three
Examples of the types of complaint covered by the complaints procedure include the
a failing in a University service (academic or non-academic);
misinformation about academic programmes;
poor teaching or supervision;
the behaviour of a member of staff;
the behaviour of another student.
Issues covered by other specific procedures of the University should not be considered as a
student complaint. Such procedures include the following:
Academic reviews and appeals;
Complaints relating to services provided by the Students’ Union;
Complaints relating to franchise provision, which should be dealt with according to the
franchise partner’s procedures, unless they relate to a University service;
Complaints relating to University accommodation, which should be submitted under the
Accommodation Services’ own complaints procedure;
Complaints about any form of discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation,
which should be submitted under the University’s Dignity and Respect for Students and
Staff Policy and Procedure.
Students are expected to raise any complaints as soon as possible, and normally no later
than the end of the semester in which issue arose.
The University’s Mediation Service can be used to resolve complaints, and should be
offered to students as an option where possible. Ideally this should take place during the
informal stage of the complaints procedure – if mediation takes place once a formal
complaint has been submitted the formal process should be suspended until the mediation
process has run its course.
Stage 1 – Informal Complaints
Most complaints are resolved informally. Students are expected to raise informal
complaints with the relevant member of staff (e.g. Personal Tutor / Director of Studies).
Heads of Department should not normally become involved in informal complaints as this
will compromise their involvement at Stage 2. The student may however contact the Head
of Department for advice on who they should discuss their informal complaint with. The
expectation is that informal complaints should, as the name suggests, be dealt with
informally, with written records not being required. It may sometimes be appropriate to
confirm what is agreed in an email, but this is not required as part of the procedure.
Stage 2 – Formal complaints
Receipt of a complaint
These should be submitted on the Student Complaint Form (see attached) and students are
asked to submit these directly to the Head of Department. If they are unsure to whom they
should submit their complaint they can seek guidance from the Office of the University
On receipt of a complaint, particular consideration should be given to whether the Student
Complaint Procedure is the best vehicle to deal with the student’s complaint – it may be that
an alternative procedure (e.g. the Academic Review / Appeal process) would be more
appropriate. If in doubt advice should be sought from the Office of the University Secretary
via the email address above.
(See Template Letter A)
The Head of Department should acknowledge receipt of a formal complaint within five
working days. At the same time, the Head of Student Services and the Academic Registrar
should also be notified of the complaint, and they may contact the Head of Department if
they feel that they should be involved in the investigation.
The Head of Department may consult the Head of Student Services or the Academic
Registrar (or any other relevant person) in respect of the complaint if they wish.
The student should receive a formal response to their complaint within four weeks of
submission (or eight weeks if it is submitted during or just before a vacation).
The Head of Department may delegate the investigation to another appropriate member of
staff if they wish.
It is normally expected that the investigating member of staff will arrange to meet the
student in person to discuss their complaint. This is usually the best way to ensure the
complaint is fully explored and that the student considers this to have happened. However,
if this is felt to be unnecessary or not possible (if for instance the student is away from Bath,
or the complaint is submitted during a vacation) then a face to face meeting can be
dispensed with, but only by mutual consent. A telephone or email conversation can be
If a meeting does take place the student may be accompanied by a companion. Any other
person in attendance (e.g. a member of staff) has the same right. The procedure states that
the companion should not normally be a professional legal representative. The expectation
is that the companion will be a friend or a Students’ Union / Trade Union representative.
A thorough investigation of the student complaint should be carried, including reviewing all
relevant documentation and interviewing relevant members of staff. Once the investigation
had been completed the investigating member of staff should consider all the facts before
reaching a conclusion.
(See Template Letter B)
The student should receive a full response to their complaint. The response should:
Detail the nature of their complaint;
Summarise the points covered in the face to face meeting (or telephone / email
conversation) if one was held;
Detail the steps taken during the investigation;
Detail the findings of the investigation, responding in turn to each of the main points of
If the complaint is not upheld the student should be informed of the reasons for this
decision. If the complaint is found to be justified any resulting action should be
The formal response should also inform the student of their right to request a review of their
complaint by the University Secretary under Stage 3 of the Student Complaints Procedure.
Students should not be disadvantaged as a result of raising a complaint. In the rare
instance where a complaint is shown to be vexatious then it should be rejected, and the
Head of Department may consider whether disciplinary proceedings should be pursued.
Learning from complaints
Whether a complaint has been upheld or not, Heads of Department should consider
whether the complaint has highlighted any areas which could be reflected and improved
upon, and take appropriate action.
If you require further advice on the Student Complaints Procedure please contact Mark
Pender in the Office of the University Secretary (ext.5398) or email