Good practice framework


1. The Good Practice Framework: handling student complaints and academic appeals is built on existing good practice identified by providers, students’ unions, complainants and the OIA. It draws on extensive consultation with the sector, the outcomes of the early resolution pilots initiative, case work, provider visits and networking events. The framework steering group has contributed its expertise in complaints and academic appeals and the learning and feedback received since publication in December 2014 has provided a rich source of experience.

2. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 extended the range of higher education providers that are required to participate in the Scheme. Our membership now includes Further Education and Sixth-Form colleges providing higher education, alternative providers and providers of School Centred Initial Teacher Training, as well as universities. The framework is published by the OIA to support providers that subscribe to the OIA scheme, and to create a model against which providers can evaluate their own processes. Throughout the document 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.

3. Complaints and academic appeals may arise in any provider. The Dearing report of 1997[2] recognised that there will inevitably be occasions when students will be dissatisfied and that it is essential for good governance that concerns are dealt with fairly, transparently and in a timely way.

4. There are certain overriding principles that govern the development and operation of effective complaints and academic appeals procedures[3].These principles underpin the framework and are set out on pages 4 and 5.

5. The framework is neither prescriptive nor mandatory and each provider is free to develop its own policy and procedures that are consistent with its academic regulations and broader context, including the size and composition of the student body. It recognises that providers have a responsibility to approach complaints and academic appeals fairly, following processes that are easy for students to understand, while retaining a right to make decisions on the merits of any individual case.

6. The Competition and Markets Authority has indicated that procedures are more likely to comply with consumer law if they follow guidelines published by the OIA or the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman [4]. The OIA suggests that each provider, along with its students’ body, compares its own complaints and academic appeals processes to the framework and satisfies itself that there are sound reasons for any differences.



4 Dearing Report of National Committee of Inquiry into
Higher Education, (1997)

(2) Dearing Report of National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, (1997)

(3) These principles are drawn from guidance issued by the Ombudsman Association, Guide to Principles of Good Complaint Handling, British and Irish Ombudsman Association, 2007. Principles of Good Administration, Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (2007) and The Pathway Report: Recommendations for the development of the OIA Scheme, OIA, February 2010.

(4) The CMA’s advice on Consumer Protection Law and the Higher Education undergraduate sector, March 2015

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