Academic Judgment

The OIA cannot interfere with the operation of a university's academic judgment. Our Rule 3.2 states that we do not cover a complaint to the extent that it relates to a matter of academic judgment. "Academic judgment" is a term found in Part 2 of the Higher Education Act 2004, so its interpretation will ultimately be for the courts. However, in our view academic judgment is not any judgment made by an academic. It is a judgment that is made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert will suffice.

For example, a judgment about assessment, a degree classification, fitness to practise, research methodology or course content/outcomes will normally be academic judgment. But the fairness of procedures, the facts of the case, misrepresentation, the manner of communication, bias, an opinion expressed outside the area of competence, the way evidence is considered and maladministration in relation to these matters are all issues where we have advised universities that academic judgment is not involved.

So, we cannot put ourselves in the position of examiners in order to re-mark work or pass comment on the marks given. However, we can look at whether the university has correctly followed its own assessment, marking and moderation procedures, and whether there was any unfairness or bias in the decision-making process.


Act or Omission

This means something you think that the university has done wrong or something you think the university should have done and has failed to do.


Complaint Form

This is the form that a student needs to complete so that we can consider their complaint. The OIA must receive a student's Complaint Form within three months of the date of the Completion of Procedures Letter.

For further information and to download a Form, please see 'Make a complaint'.


Completion of Procedures Letter

Once a student has finished the university's internal complaints or appeals procedures, the university must promptly send the student a Completion of Procedures Letter. This letter should set out clearly what issues have been considered and the university's final decision. It should also refer to the OIA. Our review will focus on this final decision.

For further information, including Guidance on issuing Completion of Procedures Letters and the Template, please see our Completion of Procedures Letter section.


Eligible complaint

This is a complaint that we can look at under our Rules.



We are set up to be independent by law. The Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive is appointed by the OIA Board. The majority of Board members are independent of the university sector.

The Independent Adjudicator and Chief Executive and the independent Board members are appointed under the Nolan Rules of fair and open competition. The OIA is funded by the universities but the way that we are funded does not influence the Decisions we make. University subscriptions originally come from public funding.


Internal Complaints or Appeals Procedure

Before bringing a complaint to the OIA, a student must complete the university's internal complaints or appeals procedures to give the university the chance to resolve the issue internally. These procedures vary from university to university and if you are unsure about your university's procedures you should be able to obtain information from your students' union, university handbook or website.


Non-Qualifying Institution

Non-Qualifying Institutions (or "NQIs") are all Institutions which are not qualifying institutions in accordance with Part 2 of the Act and includes private degree-awarding bodies.

The current list of Non-Qualifying Institutions can be found on the scheme members page of the website. Please contact us for details of which courses are covered under the NQI Protocol.


Qualifying Institution

In the Higher Education Act 2004,

'qualifying institution' means any of the following institutions in England or Wales —

(a) a university (whether or not receiving financial support under section 65 of the 1992 Act) whose entitlement to grant awards is conferred or confirmed by —

(i) an Act of Parliament,
(ii) a Royal Charter, or
(iii) an order under section 76 of the 1992 Act;

(b) a constituent college, school or hall or other institution of a university falling within paragraph (a);

(c) an institution conducted by a higher education corporation;

(d) a designated institution, as defined by section 72(3) of the 1992 Act.



Our role is to "review" the final decision of the university; it is not to re-investigate the complaint.



This means that the Court has ordered that the legal proceedings should be suspended for a limited period.



Under our Rule 2, you are a student if you are or were registered at the university you are complaining about or if you are or were registered at another institution, studying a course which leads to an award by the university you are complaining about.