Frequently Asked Questions

Please contact us if your question is not here.

Question 1
I think that I have exhausted the internal complaints procedures but the university has not issued a Completion of Procedures Letter. What should I do?


You should ask the provider for a Completion of Procedures Letter, preferably in writing. Ask the provider to tell you how to progress the complaint if it will not issue a Completion of Procedures Letter at this stage. Keep a copy of your letter. If the provider does not get back to you within a reasonable time let us know and send us a copy of the letter you sent to the provider.

Question 2
I am having difficulty in completing the Complaint Form, what should I do?


If you are having any difficulty in completing the forms please contact us by e-mailing or calling 0118 959 9813 and we will try to make any adjustments to assist you.

Question 3
What happens if I submit my Complaint Form late? Will you still look at my complaint?


We will not consider a complaint unless the completed Complaint Form is received within 12 months of the date of the Completion of Procedures Letter (or the date upon which the provider has given notice to you of its final decision on the complaint or appeal).

Question 4
I have a complaint about a course at a Further Education College. Can I complain to the OIA?


For us to look at your complaint, the course you are studying must lead to an award of a provider that is on our list. The complaint must relate to an act or omission of that provider and you must have completed the internal complaints procedure of that provider. Otherwise the Education Funding Agency may be able to help you.

Question 5
I have a Completion of Procedures Letter. There have been delays by the provider / I am unhappy with the way the provider dealt with my complaint/appeal. Do I have to take the complaint/appeal back through the internal complaints procedures of the provider before you look at it?


No, we will normally consider this as part of your complaint as long as you have included it in your Complaint Form as a complaint.

Question 6
I worked really hard and know I did well in my exams but did not get the result I deserve. Can you look at my complaint?


No, we will not look at your complaint if it is a matter of academic judgment. We will however look at your complaint if there has been unfairness or a procedural irregularity in the determination of your result.

Question 7
I am one of a group of students on the same course and we all want to complain about the course. How do we do this?


We are able to deal with group complaints. The documents in support of the complaint need only be submitted once, but every complainant needs to complete and sign their own Complaint Form and provide a copy of their Completion of Procedures Letter (which may refer to all the complainants concerned).

Question 8
I live abroad and am going home at the end of the term. Can you still look at my complaint if I am not in the country?


Yes, as long as you provide us with all your contact details. It is possible for us to send correspondence via e-mail.

Question 9
I would like to take legal action against the HE provider. Can you help?


Sorry, we cannot advise you on this. Please bear in mind that the OIA was set up as an alternative to the Courts.

Question 10
I have a complaint about discrimination by a provider which I could take to the courts. What happens if I go to the OIA?


Under the Higher Education Act 2004, students who bring a complaint to the OIA about sex, race or disability discrimination are allowed additional time within which to institute court proceedings over and above the usual time limits set by the courts. However, you should bear in mind that the time limits set by the court will start running when the original incident occurred. 

In considering issues related to discrimination the OIA does not act as a court.  It does not investigate or make legal findings in the same manner as a court.  However, it is appropriate for the OIA to refer to the law and guidance on discrimination to form an opinion as to good practice and to decide whether the provider has acted fairly.  So, for example, we might look at whether a provider has given adequate consideration to whether its procedures are placing a disabled student at a substantial disadvantage and, if it has not, we might recommend that it does so.  However, we would not make a finding that the provider had discriminated against the student.


Question 11
How do I know that my case-handler doesn’t have a connection with the provider I am complaining about?


Our staff do not review complaints involving a provider they may have a particular connection with. This includes providers that they attended or their children are attending, or that they have previously worked for, and extends to any other connection which may lead to a potential conflict of interests. We review this regularly and we consider the issue each time we allocate a case to a case-handler, and when Decisions are approved.

Question 12
Will my case be dealt with by the same case-handler throughout the OIA process?


Not necessarily. Sometimes we will re-allocate cases, for example if it becomes apparent that your case needs a very detailed review , or if a case-handler is on long-term leave. A case may also be reallocated if workloads mean it would be in your best interests for the complaint to be considered by another case-handler so that a decision can be reached more quickly.. The new case-handler will not start all over again: he or she will pick up where the first case-handler left off and will have access to all of the information already on the file. At all times we try to minimise delay in dealing with a case without compromising on quality.

Your allocated case-handler will always be the person who is best placed to speak to you about your complaint.

Question 13
Does it help if I have a lawyer?


Usually the answer is no. When lawyers are involved, the process tends to take longer and become legalistic. The OIA tries to create a level playing field and you do not need to phrase your complaint in legal language. In our experience the students’ unions may be able to help you.

Question 14
What remedies can the OIA provide?


Where we find a complaint to be Justified or Partly Justified, we may make Recommendations to the provider. You will find some 'Examples of Recommendations' under the section 'Using the Scheme'. You may find our leaflet on the OIA’s Approach to Remedies and Redress helpful.


You may also wish to look at our 'Recent Decisions'.

Question 15
Does the provider have to follow the Recommendations made by the OIA?


Providers are expected to comply with our Final Decision and any Recommendations in full. We consider non-compliance to be a very serious matter which will be reported to our Board and published in our Annual Report. Providers have an excellent record of compliance with OIA Decisions. Recommendations are not binding on the student who has complained.

Question 16
Do I have to accept the OIA's decision?


You have the choice as to whether or not to accept the OIA’s decision, and agree to any Recommendation we make. Providers normally comply with our Recommendations by making an offer “in full and final settlement of the complaint”. This means that, if you accept the offer, you would not be able to take legal proceedings against the provider about the same issues. However, if you do not accept the OIA’s decision, then your participation in the OIA process does not prevent the possibility of seeking redress through court proceedings. 

Question 17
What happens if I am unhappy with the OIA's decision?


If we have decided that your complaint (or part of it) is not eligible for review under its Rules, you can appeal that decision by writing to your case handler within 14 days of the decision. Your appeal will be decided by a different reviewer (Rule 10.1).

At the conclusion of the review, we will issue a Complaint Outcome. If your complaint is Justified or Partly Justified, we will also issue Recommendations. You and the provider will have the opportunity to comment on the Recommendations before they are finalised.

We may decide to reopen a review if we are satisfied there is good reason to do so. We will normally consider such a request provided that it is brought within 28 days of either the issue of the Complaint Outcome, or the date that the Recommendations are confirmed. You will need to persuade us either that there is new evidence which you could not reasonably have obtained at an earlier date, or that there is a 'substantive error' in the Complaint Outcome. A 'substantive error' is a mistake in the Complaint Outcome which would make a difference to the decision or Recommendations made. If you are submitting new evidence, you will need to explain why it was not possible to obtain and submit that evidence before the Complaint Outcome was issued. It is unlikely that we would consider at this late stage new medical evidence. However, we may consider evidence which was in the possession of the provider but which had not been disclosed to you.

The OIA's decisions are subject to Judicial Review. You can read more about Judicial Review.

Question 18
Will the OIA look at my complaint in the same way as a court would?


Our approach is likely to be different to the approach a court would take, and the outcome of your complaint and any remedy we recommend may be different to the outcome or remedy a Court would determine.