Dispute resolution bodies

The OIA is recognised by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) as a consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body. A consolidated list of ADR bodies can be found here:

This page sets out the information the OIA is required to publish as an ADR body.

The European Commission’s Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform can be accessed here:

Our annual reports to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) can be accessed on our activity reports page.


The OIA contact details

Second Floor, Abbey Gate 
57-75 Kings Road 

0118 959 9813

Our contact details can also be found on our Contact Us page.


OIA staff

The following OIA staff handle complaints

  • Casework Administrator (6)
  • (Snr) Case-handler (10)
  • (Snr) Assistant Adjudicator (15)
  • Casework Support Manager (1)
  • Adjudication Manager (4)
  • Head of Adjudication Team (1)
  • Head of Casework Support and Resolution Teams (1)
  • Independent Adjudicator (1)

This list was correct as of 1 April 2018.

The Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive is appointed under the Nolan Rules of fair and open competition on a five year basis, renewable for three years.

All other case handling staff members are appointed through competitive recruitment exercises (internal and/or external) and are salaried.


Membership of networking bodies

The OIA is a member of the Ombudsman Association and of the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE).


The OIA Scheme

The OIA reviews complaints from students who are or were registered at a member higher education (HE) provider. Any qualifying HE provider (as defined in the Higher Education Act 2004 and, subsequently, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Higher Education and Research Act 2017) must be a member of the OIA. The HE providers we cover are in England and Wales, but we review complaints from UK, other EU and international students at these providers.

The disputes we are competent to deal with include:

  • Complaints about academic appeals, assessments, progression and awards.
  • Complaints about the course or teaching provision, facilities and supervision.
  • Complaints about disciplinary proceedings for non-academic offences.
  • Complaints about academic offences including plagiarism, collusion and examination offences.
  • Complaints  where the student claims there has been any form of discrimination, including harassment, or where he or she claims his or her Human Rights have been breached.
  • Complaints about finance and funding: e.g. fees and fee status, bursaries and scholarships.
  • Complaints about support services, e.g. counselling, chaplaincy, assistance for international students, accommodation issues and welfare.

There are no financial thresholds to bringing a complaint.


The OIA procedure

The OIA is free to students. We normally review complaints which have completed the member HE provider’s internal procedures. We share all documentation with both parties before reaching our Decision.

The OIA reviews complaints to decide whether they are Justified, Partly Justified or Not Justified.

For further information about our process please see Introduction to the OIA for Students.


The grounds on which we might refuse to deal with a dispute

Our Rules and our Guidance on the Rules set out the complaints which we can and cannot look at.

In summary, the OIA Scheme does not cover a complaint if:

  • it concerns admission to a member HE provider : we cannot consider a complaint from a prospective student;
  • it relates to a matter of academic judgment;
  • it is or was the subject of court or tribunal proceedings and those proceedings have been concluded or have not been put on hold;
  • it was previously considered by another ADR body;
  • it concerns a student employment matter;
  • it does not materially affect the complainant as a student;
  • the student has died and the OIA had not received a Complaint Form during the student’s lifetime;
  • dealing with the complaint would seriously damage our ability to run our processes effectively; or
  • it  is frivolous or vexatious.

The OIA will not consider a complaint unless the completed Complaint Form is received within 12 months from the date upon which the member HE provider has given the student its final decision on the complaint or appeal.

In addition, the OIA will not normally consider a complaint which arose before the provider became a member of the OIA Scheme. Sometimes a complaint relates to events which occurred before and continued after the provider became a member. In those cases, the event which occurred before the provider became a member are likely to be relevant background which we will take into account when considering the complaint about events after the provider became a member.



The OIA can accept/conduct complaints in English or Welsh.


Principles of complaint handling

When reviewing a complaint the OIA will consider whether a provider followed its rules and regulations and whether the outcome was reasonable in all the circumstances, having regard to the relevant law, codes of practice and guidance.

The student must normally first complete the member HE provider’s internal procedures before bringing a complaint to the OIA. The student is not required to meet with the OIA during its review of the complaint.

Our reviews are normally conducted in writing. However, we may accept evidence orally, for example, by telephone, where it is appropriate to do so (for example, where a student has a disability which makes written communication difficult).


Withdrawal of complaint

The student can withdraw the complaint at any time during the review process and is not obliged to accept the OIA’s Decision.

The member HE provider is not able to withdraw from the process and is required by the Scheme Rules to accept any recommendations.


Is there a cost to the student?

The OIA Scheme is free for students to use.

Members of the Scheme are required to pay a subscription fee and may also pay an additional amount based on the number complaints against them. Further details of this can be found here.

We may recommend that a member HE provider pays a contribution to the student's costs but will not normally do so.


What is the average length of the review process?

The (mean) average time from first receiving a complaint form to closing a complaint is 97 days for both domestic disputes and cross border disputes (information last updated for period 9 July 2016 to 30 September 2017).

The ADR requirement to close all cases within 90 days of receipt of the complete complaint file was met in 100% of cases.


The legal outcome of the ADR process

We expect member HE providers to comply with our Recommendations fully and within the timescale we give. This may include making an offer to a student.

The OIA’s Complaint Outcome is normally its final decision. Students and HE providers may comment on any Recommendations before they are finalised. The OIA may reopen a review if there is good reason to do so and where, within a reasonable period of time after the issue of the Complaint Outcome: material new evidence is submitted which could not reasonably have been obtained at an earlier date, or there is reason to believe there might be an error in the Complaint Outcome. Further information about what happens when a complaint is closed is available here.

Providers have a good record of complying with our Recommendations and non-compliance is reported to our Board and published in our Annual Report.

Our decisions are not binding on the student. This means that the student can reject the decision, and any offer made by the provider, and pursue any other available remedy, including legal action. If the student accepts the provider’s offer, then he or she will not be able to take the complaint further. We cannot give advice to students on any further action they might be able to take because we must remain independent.