Good practice framework

Recording, reporting, publicising and learning from complaints and academic appeals

127. Valuable feedback is obtained through the consideration and resolution of complaints and academic appeals. Both procedures allow the provider to identify opportunities to improve provision of services and academic decision making. It is good practice for providers to record all complaints and academic appeals at the formal and review stages as a minimum so that the data can be used for analysis and management reporting.


Recording concerns, complaints and academic appeals

128. Concerns, complaints and academic appeals should be recorded in sufficient, proportionate, detail. Personal information about individual students will need to be removed and care taken to ensure that students are not identifiable. Where it is not possible to record information about a complaint or academic appeal without identifying the student (for example because the cohort is very small) care should be taken to ensure that only the bare minimum of information is recorded.

129. When information is recorded and used in this way, it helps providers to identify and address the causes of complaints and academic appeals. Providers may identify training opportunities and, where appropriate, improvements can be introduced.


Learning from concerns, complaints and academic appeals

130. Those dealing with concerns, complaints and academic appeals should always satisfy themselves that everyone involved understands the conclusions of the investigation and any decisions made.

131. The analysis of management reports detailing concerns, complaints and academic appeals performance will help to ensure that any trends or wider issues are quickly identified and addressed. Senior management should ensure that the provider has procedures in place to act on such reports.

132. The reports should be shared with the appropriate committee and officers and the students’ union where relevant. This may be at school or faculty level, or at provider level, and may be through quality assurance or resource groups or committees. The level of information provided in the reports should be proportional to the role of the committee.

133. Appropriate summary information should be given to staff and students, including students’ unions, on the actions taken in response to concerns, complaints and academic appeals. This helps to raise awareness of the procedures and build the confidence of students and staff in their transparency and effectiveness.[18]


Accountability for concerns, complaints and academic appeals

134. A concern or complaint may be made to any member of staff. All staff therefore need to be aware of the provider’s complaints procedure and how to handle and record concerns at the early resolution stage. They should also be aware of who to refer to if they are not able to handle the matter personally. The provider should encourage all staff to try to resolve concerns quickly, and as close to the point of service delivery as possible, to prevent escalation.

135. Providers should take appropriate steps to ensure that all relevant staff are aware of:

  • the complaints and academic appeals procedures
  • how to handle and record concerns and, if appropriate, issues relating to academic outcomes at the early resolution stage
  • who they can refer a concern or query about an academic outcome to if they are unable to handle the matter personally
  • the need to try and resolve concerns and queries about academic outcomes early and as locally (within their department) as possible
  • their clear authority to attempt to resolve any concerns or queries about academic outcomes that they may be called upon to deal with.

136. Senior management should ensure that:

  • the provider’s final position on a complaint or academic appeal investigation is signed off by an appropriate person/officer in order to provide assurance that this is the definitive response of the provider and that the student’s concerns have been taken seriously
  • named individuals from the senior management maintain overall responsibility and accountability for the management and governance of concerns, complaints and academic appeals handling within the provider
  • senior management has a clear understanding of, and role in, the complaints and academic appeals procedures (this will include an oversight role and will not necessarily mean being involved in the decision-making process)
  • mechanisms are in place to ensure a consistent approach to the way information about handling concerns, complaints and academic appeals is managed, monitored, reviewed and reported at all levels in the provider[19]
  • concerns and complaints information is used to improve services to students and the student experience, and this is evident from regular publications
  • complaints and academic appeals procedures meet the requirements of chapter B9 of the UK Quality Code.[20]



[18] QAA UK Quality Code, Ibid.

[19] This includes the governing body. See recommendation 9 of the Independent Review of Higher Education Governance in Wales that “An annual report on the student complaint process…should become a formal requirement of all governing bodies and used to inform the proposed organisational effectiveness review.” Welsh Government 2011.

[20] QAA UK Quality Code, Ibid.

Back to contents page