Student Complaints Procedure

The Student Complaints Procedure is available to current students and recent graduates as a way to raise concerns, give feedback and request solutions to problems that have occurred during your time at University. This include issues with your course, problems with your hall of residence or an issues with a University Service.

The complaints procedure has a number of stages. You should try to use each stage, unless there are good reasons to escalate your complaint.

Stage 1 – Informal Complaint

The first step to take when an issue arises is to see if it can be resolved informally. This stage is known as making an informal complaint or seeking local or informal resolution.

The University encourages informal resolution as it can be the case that the department where the issues have arisen are best placed to resolve them. Informal resolution may also lead to a quicker outcome.

There is scope within the procedure to skip this first stage under some circumstances. For example, if there are reasons that seeking informal resolution is inappropriate. However, in most cases, the University will expect you to use the informal stage.

The University reserves the right to refer a formal complaint back to the informal stage if it has cause to believe that there has been no reasonable attempt at informal resolution. Following the informal process will help to protect against this.

Complaint Timescales

It is important to keep in mind the University expects complaints to be submitted within a set timeframe.

The Complaints Procedure sets out that a formal complaint should be submitted within 40 working days of the issues occurring. The Procedure requires you to use the informal stage within this period of time. The University suggests pursuing an informal complaint as soon as possible to allow for informal resolutions to be explored before the 40 working deadline passes.

The University may only look at a formal complaint submitted after the 40 working day deadline if there are credible and compelling reasons for the delay. This means that exceptional and unavoidable circumstances have prevented the complaint from being submitted any earlier. If you are worried about meeting this deadline, please contact the Advice Service for support.

Making an Informal Complaint:

There isn’t a set process and handling of informal complaints is left to the discretion of each department. We recommend submitting an informal complaint in writing. This will give you a record of the action you have taken and it gives you the opportunity to set out your concerns clearly outside the pressure of a discussion. It also demonstrates that you are

serious about the issue being a complaint and shows that you are expecting a considered response. If the complaint is rejected at the informal stage, you can use what you've written to form the basis of a formal complaint.

E-mail is usually the best method for submitting an informal complaint. If you feel that it would be helpful to speak to a member of staff in person, you can request this.

You can use the subject line of your e-mail to set out that you are submitting a complaint. For example: “Informal Complaint – [short summary of the issue]”. This helps to show that the e-mail is a complaint and will help to ensure it is dealt with appropriately.

Writing your Complaint:

  • Introduction - state the course you are studying and the year you are in. Provide a brief summary of the reasons for your complaint.
  • Set out full details of the problems have you faced in the main body of your complaint.
  • Include the dates the issues occurred and write your complaint in chronological order.
  • Explain any action you may already have taken in attempt to resolve the issues.
  • Provide any reasons why you aren’t satisfied with the department’s response so far.
  • Explain the impact of the issues on you personally and academically.
  • Conclusion - state what outcomes / response you are hoping for. Sign off - state if you would like to arrange a zoom meeting to discuss the issues further or if you would like to hear back in writing. Give a timescale in which you would like to receive a reply. 5-10 working days may be appropriate but you can ask for quicker response for urgent circumstances. You may want to include a line of thanks for taking the time to consider the issues you have raised.

Complaint Outcomes:

When deciding about possible outcomes to request, think about what action you feel the University could take to put the issues right. \

Examples of common outcomes to request include:

An apology for that has happened.

  • Assurances that similar issues won’t happen in future.
  • That a specific policy or procedure is reviewed to prevent similar issues occurring in future.
  • Financial compensation for any losses you have faced or distress and inconvenience caused. You may need to provide evidence to support this request.

It is possible to request any resolutions you feel would be appropriate in your circumstances. It is then up to the University to decide if they agree that your complaint is justified and the outcomes you have requested are appropriate.

In terms of asking for compensation, the Advice Service isn't able to formally advise on how much you could request. This is a complex area of law and only solicitors can advise and

quantify specific amounts. However, it is possible for you to estimate an amount if you would like to request compensation.

General guidance would be to base the estimate on what you believe would be reasonable under the circumstances.

Include any costs you have incurred, which you feel have arisen because of wrong-doing on the part of the University.

The OIA have published guidance on distress and inconvenience. They suggest a request of up to £500.00 compensation may be reasonable if you have experienced some distress and inconvenience over a period of less than 6 months. It is important to give reasons for the amount you are requesting. Supporting evidence will also give more weight to your request. More information is available on the OIA’s website.

Distress and inconvenience can include exacerbation of a pre-existing medical condition or disability, increased stress and anxiety, unsatisfactory supervision, impact on academic performance etc. If you would like additional general guidance on requesting compensation, please get in touch with an advisor.

Supporting Evidence:

Wherever possible, it may be helpful to submit documentary evidence of the circumstances you have described in your complaint. This is so the University can verify what has happened. Evidence could include:

  • Copies of any relevant emails between you and the University
  • Medical evidence if any of the issues affected your health – this could be supporting letter from your GP. This would include if you have experienced stress and anxiety.
  • A letter from a service you have used for support in connection with your complaint. For example, the University Counselling Service.

Submitting your Informal Complaint:

Submit your complaint to the most relevant department. Where possible we recommend submitting your complaint by e-mail.

Course Issues:

Most complaints relating to problems that have arisen on your course can be submitted to your School. Submit your complaint to a senior member of staff such as your Programme Director. More serious complaints may be directed to your Head of School. Alternatively, if you’re not sure which member of staff would be best to handle your complaint, e-mail it to your School Support Office. Include a line at the start of your complaint to ask your School Support Office to forward it to the most appropriate person.

Halls of Residence:

Complaints relating to your Hall of Residence can be submitted to your Hall Administration Office. There are three Administration Offices depending on where you live.

  • Victoria Park Campus: Dalton-Ellis Hall, Conyngham Road, Victoria Park, Manchester, M14 5RL. Tel: +44 161 306 9844
  • City Campus: Grove House Office, 316 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9WJ. Tel: +44 161 275 4950
  • Fallowfield Campus: Owens Park, 293 Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield, Manchester, M14 6HD. Tel: +44 161 306 9900

Call the relevant Administration Office to request their e-mail address or ask your Hall Reception Team for this information.

Alternatively, an informal complaint about your accommodation can be submitted to [email protected]. Include a line at the start of your complaint to request that you complaint is forwarded to the manager for consideration.

University Services:

An informal complaint about a University Service can be submitted to the manager of this area. If you can’t find the manager’s contact details, you can use the general e-mail address for the Service. Include a line in your complaint to request that it is forwarded to the manager for consideration. If you’re struggling to find relevant contact details, please contact the Advice Service.

Extra Support:

If you’re experiencing a difficult set of circumstances causing stress and affecting your wellbeing, we recommend seeing your GP to talk things through. Although GPs are currently limiting face to face appointments due to the covid-19 outbreak, they should still be offering consultations over the phone or online.

An appointment can also be a good time to ask whether the doctor can provide a supporting letter for your complaint. Ask the GP to confirm when you have attended appointments with them, details of your symptoms and any diagnosis and details of any treatment and / or medication recommended or provided.

Following the appointment, most GPs will then write up a short summary of what has been discussed and recommended in a letter. Bear in mind that GPs sometimes charge for providing a supporting letter.

Support is also available from the University Counselling Service.

Details of help available in a crisis are available here.

Stage 2 – Formal Complaint

If you aren’t satisfied with response you receive to your informal complaint, the next stage of the Complaints Procedure involves submitting a formal complaint.

A formal complaint should be submitted to your Faculty using the University's complaint form, which you can download here. You can submit the form and your evidence by e-mail.

Each Faculty has a dedicated Appeals and Complaints Team who are responsible for investigating and responding to formal complaints.

The contact details for each of the three Faculty Appeals and Complaints Teams are:

Once you’ve submitted your complaint the Appeals and Complaints Team should contact you within 5 working days to let you know it has been received. Your complaint is usually assigned to a member of staff from this Team for investigation. In some cases a second investigator from the wider Faculty may be appointed to work alongside the Appeals and Complaints Officer. The regulations require that the persons investigating are independent of the complaint.

The scope of the investigation is left to the discretion of the investigators. The investigation may include gathering information from relevant departments within the University. You may be asked to provide more information if the investigators need to clarify the details of your complaint. In some cases, you can be invited to a meeting to provide more information.

A decision will then usually be made by considering your original submissions and any further information obtained during the investigation.

The Faculty's decision should be sent to you by e-mail. The University's Regulations state that you should normally be told the outcome of your case within 30 working days of the date the complaint was received. However, it is possible for this timescale to vary. If you have any concerns about the time it is taking for a decision to be issued, please contact the Advice Service for further guidance.

The possible outcomes of a formal complaint are:

1. A recommendation of specific action to address your concerns.
2. An explanation of the circumstances which led to the complaint.
3. Referral to a Complaints Panel for further investigation – this action will be recommended if the complaint is considered to raise serious or complex issues.
4. The complaint being dismissed – if your complaint isn’t upheld the investigators should provide you with a written explanation on why this decision has been made.

If you are dissatisfied with the Faculty’s decision on your complaint, you normally have the right to request a review of the decision. This would be completed by a central Appeals and Complaints Team based in the University’s Division of Teaching, Learning and Student Development.

The information about how to do this should be contained within the outcome letter of your formal complaint. You must submit a request for review within 10 working days of receiving your decision.

Following the review, you may be issued with a Completion of Procedures letter, at which point you could consider going to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) if you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint. The OIA is an independent public body set up to review student appeals and complaints.

If you would like advice and support with requesting a review or taking your case to the OIA please get back in touch with us.

Writing a Formal Complaint:

The University's Complaints Form is set out to capture certain information and there is space for you to write a complaint statement. It is important to include the following detail:

  • Set out each of your concerns and explain the impact on you.
  • Summary of informal action you have taken to try and resolve the issues.
  • Explanation of why you are unhappy with the response at the informal stage.
  • Details of the outcomes / response you are hoping for.

Where possible it is advisable to ensure your complaint is concise and covers key points. Use the guidance above to help you, this applies to both the informal and formal stages. If you have already written an informal complaint, you may be able to adapt this. Keep in mind that the people reading your formal complaint will not have any background knowledge of what has happened.

How We Can Help You

We understand that going through the complaints process may not be easy and it can be stressful if it feels like the University isn’t listening to your concerns. The Advice Service is here to for advice and guidance on your complaint and can help you to access a wider network of support services. After reading this guidance, get in touch with us if you have any specific questions or need help with any of the following:

  • Help with preparing your complaint – see below for more information on our draft checking service.
  • Questions about supporting evidence and how to obtain this.
  • Concerns about a delay in the procedure.
  • Help if you are asked to attend a meeting or submit further information.
  • Advice on using the later stages of the Complaints Procedure.
  • Taking your complaint to the OIA.

Draft Checking:

If you would like our help with preparing a complaint, an advisor can check your case before you submit it. First of all we ask you to have a go at writing a draft of your complaint. You can use the guidance on this page to help you with this.

When you’ve completed the first draft of either your informal or formal complaint, you can e-mail a copy to the Advice team on [email protected]. We will check if there's any further detail you could add and help you with editing your complaint to ensure you're putting forward the best possible case. We can also review your evidence if you would like to send this to us.

Please make sure to give us as much notice as possible if you would like us to check your draft. We cannot guarantee to provide feedback at short notice. If you are working to a formal complaint deadline, please provide at least 10 working days’ notice if you would like a draft to be checked.

Please keep in mind that we can only check a draft once. We may also not be able to review lengthy documents in full.

Due to high demand, we only have a limited amount of time we can allocate to each enquiry we receive. You may have to wait a few days for feedback because of the number of cases we are working on. We are grateful for your patience and ask that you do not e-mail us while you are waiting feedback on a draft.

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