Good practice framework


Annex 1: Glossary

Academic appeal - For the purpose of this framework, and in line with the UK Quality Code, an academic appeal is defined as “a request for a review of a decision of an academic body charged with making decisions on student progress, assessment and awards”. This may include a request to change marks or progress decisions, or final award classifications.

Complaint - For the purpose of this framework a complaint can be defined as “an expression of dissatisfaction by one or more students about a provider’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the provider.” A complaint can also be about the quality of other aspects of student life, for example about accommodation services, facilities or behaviours, whether provided directly by the provider or by a third party on behalf of the provider. Where a student wishes to have an academic decision overturned this is not normally dealt with as a complaint.

In line with the language of the Higher Education Act 2004, all submissions to the OIA are called ‘complaints’ whether they relate to a complaint or an academic appeal.

Completion of Procedures letter (often referred to as a COP letter) - Once a student has exhausted the provider’s internal academic appeals or complaints procedures, and there is no further avenue available to the student, the provider must promptly send a Completion of Procedures letter to the student. If the provider has upheld the student’s complaint or academic appeal but the student remains dissatisfied, the provider should issue a Completion of Procedures letter if asked to do so. This letter should set out clearly what issues have been considered and the provider’s final decision.[21]

Concerns - In this framework ‘concern’ is used to denote an issue, query or request for clarification that is raised locally by a student or students.

Conciliation - In conciliation, as in mediation, an independent person (the conciliator) tries to help the people in dispute to resolve their problem. The process is voluntary and confidential. The conciliator should be impartial and should not take sides. The parties in dispute are responsible for deciding how to resolve the dispute, not the conciliator. In some conciliation, the conciliator gives an opinion about what is reasonable resolution.

Exceptional circumstances - This framework describes the complaints and academic appeals processes that should usually apply in higher education providers. In exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to follow different procedures, for example, where strict application of the procedures would result in substantial unfairness to the student, or the student is in some way at risk because of health or disability. Such cases will be rare and should each be treated on their merits.

Former student - Students should have access to academic appeals and complaints procedures for a reasonable period after their studies have concluded or been terminated. Providers’ regulations will specify how long a student has after leaving the provider to bring a complaint or academic appeal.

Governing body (or equivalent) - The governing body, or equivalent, of a provider is collectively responsible - and has ultimate responsibility that cannot be delegated - for overseeing the provider’s activities, to determine its future direction, and to foster an environment in which the provider’s mission is achieved. The governing body of a provider is sometimes known as either the board of governors or council.

Learning opportunities - Learning opportunities refers to any and all means by which a provider makes its programmes of study available to learners including all modes, levels and places of study.

Mediation - Mediation is a process that is voluntary and confidential. An impartial third party (the mediator) helps parties with a dispute to try and reach an agreement. The parties with the dispute, not the mediator, decide whether they can resolve their issues, and what the outcome should be. Mediation follows a series of rules or steps that are agreed in advance.

Mitigating and extenuating circumstances – Each provider’s regulations will allow for mitigating or extenuating circumstances to be taken into account in a student’s assessment, if those circumstances are made known to the provider in a timely manner. It is for each provider to determine what mitigating or extenuating circumstances are acceptable.

Ombudsman – Companies House criteria to register a company name or use a business name with the title ‘ombudsman’ (from 7 April 2015, if not a statutory body) are that it should:

  • be certified as a provider of Alternative Dispute Resolution by a competent authority
  • be an Ombudsman Member of the Ombudsman Association
  • have a proven track record in dispute resolution in the relevant sector (normally at least 12 months)

Procedural irregularity - A procedural irregularity is where the procedures and regulations of a provider have not been complied with, giving rise to a complaint or academic appeal.

Professional, statutory and regulatory body (PSRB) - Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) are authorised to accredit, approve or recognise specific programmes and courses of study leading to the qualifications of various industries and professions.

Provider – The framework uses the term ‘provider’ to refer to any higher education provider in England or Wales which is a qualifying institution for the OIA and other higher education providers that have opted to join and subscribe to the OIA. (Higher Education Act 2004, Part 2, section 11).

Reasonable adjustments - Under the Equality Act 2010, where a disabled person is at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled, there is a duty to take reasonable steps to remove that disadvantage by

(i) changing provisions, criteria or practices,

(ii) altering, removing or providing a reasonable alternative means of avoiding physical features and

(iii) providing auxiliary aids.

SCITT – Provider of School-Centred Initial Teacher Training.

Student - The term student includes those undertaking a course of study, including initial teacher training trainees studying at a SCITT. It includes those on an interruption of study, temporary withdrawal or temporary exclusion or suspension and those who have recently left a provider. Where the provider was brought into membership of the OIA Scheme by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, reference to ‘course of study’ means a higher education course (for these purposes, higher education course is defined at /glossary.aspx#hecourse.

Student experience - The student experience refers to all the ways in which a student interacts with the provider during his or her course of study. It includes but is broader than the student’s learning opportunities.

Students’ union - The students’ union (or association or guild) is usually recognised as the independent, autonomous representative body and therefore, where the union wishes, it can be supported by the provider to engage in complaints and academic appeals in two distinct roles. The students’ union should be supported, and where possible funded, to provide independent, free, confidential and professional advice and representation for students wishing to submit a complaint or academic appeal. The students’ union should also be supported to be an active partner in the provider’s processes to learn from complaints and academic appeals. Providers’ responsibilities for their students’ unions are set out in section 22 of the Education Act 1994.

Student’s representative - An individual who is authorised by a student to act on the student’s behalf in pursuit of a complaint or academic appeal.


Annex 2: Overview of complaints and appeals process



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