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?

Answer

You should ask the university for a Completion of Procedures Letter, preferably in writing. Ask the university 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 university 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 university.


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

Answer

If you are having any difficulty in completing the forms please contact the Administration Manager by emailing accessibility@oiahe.org.uk 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?

Answer

You will need to provide a good reason why your application is late and you may need to submit appropriate evidence. It will be at our discretion whether or not to accept your complaint.


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

Answer

For us to look at your complaint, the course you are studying must lead to an award of a university that is on our list. The complaint must relate to an act or omission of that university and you must have completed the internal complaints procedure of that university. 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 university / I am unhappy with the way the university dealt with my complaint/appeal. Do I have to take the complaint/appeal back through the internal complaints procedures of the university before you look at it?

Answer

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?

Answer

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?

Answer

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?

Answer

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


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

Answer

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 university which I could take to the courts. What happens if I go to the OIA?

Answer

Under the Higher Education Act 2004, students who bring a complaint to the OIA about sex, race or disability discrimination are allowed an additional two months 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 university has acted fairly.  So, for example, we might look at whether a university 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 university had discriminated against the student.


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

Answer

Our staff do not review complaints involving a university they may have a particular connection with. This includes universities 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?

Answer

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?

Answer

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?

Answer

Where we find a complaint to be Justified or Partly Justified, we may make Recommendations to the university. 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 university have to follow the Recommendations made by the OIA?

Answer

Universities 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 publicised in our Annual Report. Universities have an excellent record of compliance with OIA Decisions. Recommendations are not binding on the student who has complained.


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