The OIA and your Personal Data

Information about people (‘personal data’)

At the OIA, we have a lot of information about people; mostly students and staff at Providers of Higher Education. We will always try to treat information about people in line with our Core Values which say that "We treat all who engage with us with respect and sensitivity and we are clear, transparent and accessible in all that we say and do".

We need to process some personal information to carry out our responsibilities as the body appointed under the Higher Education Act 2004 to run the student complaint scheme. You can find more information about who we are and what we do on our website.

All of our staff receive training on handling personal information to meet both our legal obligations, and the reasonable expectations of the people we deal with.

We have produced guidance for providers about Supplying Personal Data to the OIA. This explains in more detail the legal bases we rely on to process personal data lawfully, and sets out how we ensure that we treat the personal data in our complaint files respectfully.


What information about me do you have?

When you submit a complaint to us, we ask you to tell us some information about you, and your complaint, so that we can look into what has happened. We ask everyone who wants to make a complaint to tell us their name and how we can get in touch with them. We also need to know where you were studying, and what course.

We ask you to tell us about what has gone wrong. The exact information we ask you to give us will depend on what your complaint is about. You might need to tell us some sensitive personal information. For example, if your complaint is about how a medical condition affected your student experience, you might need to tell us what the condition is and how it affected you. You do not need to tell us things about you which are not relevant to your complaint. For example, you do not need to tell us you have a medical condition, if your complaint is about a disagreement over tuition fees.

When we review your complaint, as well as getting information from you, we will ask the Provider you are complaining about, to tell us its side of the story. We will not ask the Provider to send us everything it knows about you. We will ask it to send us all of the information it considered when it made the final decision which you are complaining about. You will normally get to see everything the Provider sends us.


What do you use information about me for?

We will use the information we get from you, and from the Provider, to decide whether your complaint is something which we can look at. If we can look at your complaint, then we will use the information to decide if your complaint is Justified, Partly Justified or Not Justified. We may also use the information to try to settle your complaint.

Some of the information we ask you for may not be directly relevant to the outcome of your complaint. We ask for some information so that we can analyse who is using the OIA’s service - for example, whether we receive more complaints from undergraduate or postgraduate students. When we publish information about trends in complaints, we will never include anything which can identify you.

We also use information from the complaints we review to identify learning and good practice which we can share with all Higher Education Providers. We publish case studies and deliver presentations which explore issues raised in the complaints we receive. We will never include any information which could identify you.

We may use your contact information to get in touch with you to ask for feedback about our service. We hope that you will help us make our service better by giving us your opinions, but answering our surveys is voluntary and will not affect how we deal with your complaint.


What do you do with information from my MyOIA account?

We use the information you give us to create a unique MyOIA account for you. If you are a student, you can use this account to submit a complaint to us, and to track its progress. If you are a student representative, or Point of Contact at an HE Provider, you can track the progress of any of the complaints you are involved with. Anyone with a MyOIA account can use it to update us if your contact details change.

The information you give us when you create the account is held securely in databases which are not accessible to anyone outside the OIA. We do not share your personal information with anyone when the account is created. We do not use it to start looking into your complaint until a Complaint Form has been submitted. Find out more about what we do with your information once you have submitted a Complaint Form.

You can submit a complaint to us without creating a MyOIA account, although you will not be able to track your complaint online.

If you create a student MyOIA account, but do not submit a complaint form to us within 90 days, we may use the contact information you have given us to remind you to submit your Complaint Form.

From time to time, we may use the information you have given us to ask you for your opinions about the OIA’s service. You do not have to answer our questions, although we hope that you will so that we can keep improving what we do.


Who will you share my information with?

Information about you will be shared with the Provider you are complaining about. If you were studying at more than one Provider, or you were studying at one Provider for a qualification awarded by a different Provider, we may need to send your information to both Providers, if both of them have been involved in what you are complaining about.

If you were studying at a Provider which is a member of our Scheme but the qualification you were studying for is awarded by an organisation which is not a member of our Scheme - for example, an HNC or HND awarded by Pearson (Edexcel) - we may need to send your information to the Awarding Organisation, or to Ofqual. This is because in some cases, complaints about these bodies cannot be considered by us, but may be considered by the Awarding Organisation or by Ofqual.

If you have given us permission to do so, then we may share limited information (including your name, contact details, that you have made a complaint to us and the date of that complaint) with a person or organisation carrying out research into student complaints. This kind of research is not undertaken with every complaint. It would only happen when we have finished looking into your complaint. We can still look at your complaint even if you do not want to be contacted by researchers afterwards.

If we decide that your complaint raises serious concerns about how the Provider as a whole or a particular course, department or process is operating, we may share information about those concerns with quality regulators such as HEFCE or QAA, or professional bodies such as GMC, NMC, SRA or HCPC. We will not share any information which could identify you unless we have first obtained your permission.

Very rarely, we become concerned for the personal safety of students who are using our service. If we think that you may be at risk of causing harm to yourself or others, we may use the information we have about you to contact someone who can check that you are OK, for example, a family member, medical professional, or the police.

We will never pass information about you on to a third party company for profit. We will never use your information for marketing purposes.


How long will you keep my information?

If you send us paper documents, we will usually make an electronic copy of them. You should keep a copy. We will usually destroy the hard copies when 6 months has passed since we received them. Please do not send us original documents (e.g. degree certificates, death certificates).

We keep all of the information you send us, and which the Provider sends us about your complaint, on an electronic database. We will usually move your complaint record to an archive database after 2 years have passed since the most recent correspondence about the complaint. We will remove any information from the record which might identify you, and we will delete the documents which you and the Higher Education Provider sent us.

We keep some information about complaints for up to 10 years, to allow us to identify trends and themes in complaints and the students which are using our service (for example, postgraduate students, Law students, mature students). You will never be identifiable in any statistical information we produce.

We usually keep a copy of every Complaint Outcome (and any Recommendations we make) for 6 years after we have finished looking at the complaint. We remove information which might identify you from the Complaint Outcomes. We keep the Complaint Outcomes for training purposes, and to monitor the kind of complaints we received and their outcomes.


How long do you keep MyOIA account information?

If you create a student MyOIA account, and submit a complaint to us, we will keep your MyOIA account active for 2 years after your last complaint is closed or you last accessed the account. We will delete your account shortly after this time. We keep other information about your complaint for longer.

If you create a student MyOIA account but do not submit a complaint to us, we will keep your MyOIA account active for 90 days after you last accessed the account. We will delete your account shortly after this time.

If you create a student representative MyOIA account, we will keep your account active until 6 months have passed since you last accessed the account.

If you create a Provider Contact account, the account will remain active until two years after the Provider ceases to be a member of the OIA Scheme. The contact information on the account can be amended by you and by us as necessary.

You can ask us to remove your MyOIA account at any time or you can do this yourself from the My Account screen in MyOIA.


How can I see the information you have about me?

You have the right to see what information we have about you. We usually send you a copy of all of the information the Provider sends us about your complaint, during our review process.

If you want to see what information we have about you, please contact us. It is helpful if you can tell us what information you would like access to.


I think the information you have about me is wrong – what can I do?

If you think we have information about you which is wrong, please let us know. If you have an ongoing complaint, you can contact the case-handler who is looking at it. Otherwise, contact us at

We can usually correct matters of fact very easily, for example, if you have moved house, or if we have made an error recording information about you.

Some of the information we have may be the opinions of others. For example, we may have information about what a member of staff thought about a student’s assessed work. It is common in complaints that the student and the Provider disagree about opinions like this. Sometimes there are disagreements about ‘facts’ too; for example, if the complaint is about whether a Provider has calculated a student’s marks wrongly. Our process allows both sides to set out their version of events freely; we do not edit either party’s representations.

Where the two parties to the complaint do not agree about personal information in a document, we will not ‘correct’ what either party has said to us, but our records will show that there is disagreement over whether the information is accurate.


I want you to stop dealing with my personal information – what can I do?

If you do not want us to process your personal information, you should let us know. If you have an ongoing complaint, you can contact the case-handler who is looking at it. Otherwise, contact us at

Even if you have previously said that we can use your personal information, you can change your mind at any time. It is helpful if you can explain what personal information you want us to stop processing. For example, you might tell us that you no longer wish to be included in any research about customer satisfaction; or you might tell us that you no longer wish us to do anything at all with any information about you.

We may still be able to look at your complaint if you ask us to stop processing only a small part of your personal information. But, if you ask us not to consider some personal information which we think is important to your complaint, we may not be able to complete our review.

For example, if a student on a video game design course complains to us that the Provider did not give him access to the latest software which had been promised in the prospectus, we will not need to know any information about the student’s criminal convictions. If this information was given to us, the student could ask us to remove it from our records. We can remove that information and still continue to look at the complaint.

But, if a student on a medical course complains to us because the Provider has terminated his studies, because he had been dishonest about his criminal convictions, then we would probably need to consider information about the convictions to help us decide if the Provider made a reasonable decision. If the student asked us to remove details of the conviction from our records, we could not continue to look at the complaint.


Information about people who have not complained to the OIA

We often receive personal information about individuals other than the student who is making the complaint. For example, students may tell us about events in their family which affected their studies; or they may refer to other students in connection with their complaint.

Most of the complaints which we review will involve us looking at information about members of staff at a Higher Education Provider acting in their professional capacity.

The information we have will depend on what the parties to the complaint send us. It will usually include all information considered by the Provider in making its final decision. For example, we might see copies of email correspondence between a student and their supervisor; we might see information about a student’s family member being in hospital.

We treat all personal information respectfully, and with attention to security. We will not use any of this information to make decisions about those individuals. We only use this personal information if it is relevant to make a decision about the complaint which has been made to us. We do not normally Recommend that Providers take any action about any other individuals mentioned in the process of our review, whether they are members of staff or other students.

You can help us protect the personal data of other people when you send us information about your complaint. For example, you can check with that person whether they are happy for you to send their information to us. You do not usually need to go into detail; for example, you can say ‘ a member of my family was seriously ill’ rather than ‘My father was being treated for heart failure’. You can anonymise the information which you send to us, for example, ‘Student A told me that she had seen Student B copying my essay’.

The Providers which are members of our Scheme have their own separate legal obligations towards handling personal information and should not send us personal data which is not necessary for our review.

If you have not complained to the OIA but think we may have personal data about you, you have the same rights to access it, to ask us to correct it, or remove it, as the students who have complained to us. Please get in touch with us at It is helpful if you can tell us what information you think we have. For example, ‘I am a member of staff at X Provider and think you have information about me from a complaint in 2017 about z course’ or ‘ I was a housemate of [named student] who complained to you last year about events I was involved in’.


I am unhappy about the OIA is handling my personal data – what can I do?

If you are unhappy about how we are handling your personal data, please let us know so that we can put it right. If your complaint is ongoing, you can tell your case-handler about this. If you do not have an ongoing complaint with us, you can let us know about your concerns at

If you do not feel that this has solved the problem, you can make a service complaint.

If we still have not solved the problem, then you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. We will cooperate fully with any investigation requests from the Information Commissioner’s Office.


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