15We use the term “higher education provider” to refer to any body which is a member of the OIA. You can find a list of higher education providers that are members of the OIA on our website.
16A higher education provider which is a “qualifying institution” is automatically a member of the OIA. “Qualifying institution” is a term which is defined in section 11 of the Higher Education Act 2004:
11 Qualifying institutions
In this Part “qualifying institution” means any of the following institutions —
(a) a university in England or Wales (whether or not receiving financial support under section 65 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (“the 1992 Act”) or section 39 or 93 of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (“the 2017 Act”)) whose entitlement to grant awards is conferred or confirmed by—
(i) an Act of Parliament,
(ii) a Royal Charter, or
(iii) an order under section 76 of the 1992 Act or section 42 or 45 of the 2017 Act ;
(b) a constituent college, school or hall or other institution in England or Wales of a university falling within paragraph (a);
(c) an institution in England or Wales conducted by a higher education corporation;
(d) an institution in Wales which is a designated institution, as defined by section 72(3) of the 1992 Act.
(da) an institution in England which is a registered higher education provider as defined by section 85 of the 2017 Act (other than one within paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of this section)
(e) an institution in England or Wales (other than one within any of the preceding paragraphs of this section) which provides higher education courses which are designated for the purposes of section 22 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 by or under regulations under that section;
(ea) an institution in England (other than one within any of the preceding paragraphs of this section) which provides higher education courses leading to the grant of an award by or on behalf of—
(i) another institution in England within another paragraph of this section, or
(ii) the Office for Students where the grant is authorised by regulations under section 51(1) of the 2017 Act;
(f) an institution in England or Wales (other than one within another paragraph of this section) whose entitlement to grant awards is conferred by an order under section 76(1) of the 1992 Act or section 42 or 45 of the 2017 Act.
17We cannot review a complaint unless the higher education provider is a member on the date we receive the student’s Complaint Form.
18We will not look at complaints which arose before the higher education provider became a qualifying institution, and member of the OIA. Sometimes a student’s complaint relates to events which occurred before and continued after the higher education provider became a member. For example, a student is studying at a college which became a member of the OIA on 1 April 2018. In October 2018, the student complains about bullying by his course tutor which, he says, started in January 2017 and continued through 2018. In those cases, the events which occurred before the provider became a member are likely to be relevant background which we will take into account when considering the complaint about events which occurred after membership began.
19If a higher education provider stops being a qualifying institution, for example because it stops running higher education courses, it will carry on being a member of the OIA for a period of 12 months after it stopped being a qualifying institution. The 12 month period, runs from the day on which the higher education provider stops being a qualifying institution and, during this “transitional period”, the higher education provider is known as a transitional institution. For example, a higher education provider which stops being a qualifying institution on 1 July 2018, will carry on being a member of the OIA until 30 June 2019. Transitional institutions are identified in our list of members on our website.
20We cannot look at a complaint about a transitional institution unless the complaint relates to events which occurred before the institution became a transitional institution. So, in the example given in paragraph 19, we could only review complaints about events which took place before 1 July 2018.
21A transitional institution may become a qualifying institution again, for example if it starts offering higher education courses again. We will be able to consider complaints about events which occurred after the provider became a qualifying institution again. For example, a higher education provider stops being a qualifying institution on 1 July 2018. On 1 January 2019, it becomes a qualifying institution again. We could consider complaints about events which occurred before 1 July 2018 and on or after 1 January 2019.
22Any body in England or Wales which is not a “qualifying institution”, may apply to become a member of the OIA if it meets our conditions for joining. The body must be delivering higher education courses or awarding higher education qualifications. For these purposes, a ”higher education” course is a course of any description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988 and which also meets the academic standards as they are described in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland at Level 4 or higher. We will normally be guided by the body’s own assessment of the level of the course(s) in question and will take into account any information provided by or to regulatory and quality assurance bodies. We will not normally carry out our own assessment of whether or not a course is “higher education”.
23The application to become a member must be approved by the OIA’s Board (see Board, paragraph 51). We may publish additional Rules to apply to bodies which have joined the OIA in this way. We may agree with the body which courses, and students, membership of the OIA will relate to. You can find out more about the procedure for applying to become a member, and any additional Rules which apply, on our website.
24Students may complain about what a higher education provider has done, or failed to do. They may complain about the higher education provider at which they are studying. In some cases, a student is studying at one higher education provider for an award which is conferred or granted by another provider (see paragraphs 9, 12 and 13).
25If both providers are members of the OIA, then the student may be able to make a complaint about either provider, depending on which provider is responsible for the matters which the student is complaining about. You can find further information about when providers should issue a Completion of Procedures Letter in our Guidance on Completion of Procedures Letters. Where more than one higher education provider is involved, our starting point is to look at the agreement between the providers to decide where responsibility lies for the matters which the student is complaining about. We will consider how the higher education provider dealt with the student’s complaint or academic appeal, and whether it fulfilled its responsibilities under the agreement between the providers. Further information about our approach can be found in The Good Practice Framework: handling complaints and academic appeals - delivering learning opportunities with others.
26Generally we cannot look at complaints about students’ unions. However, we can consider a complaint relating to a students’ union where the union is part of the legal entity of the higher education provider, or the complaint concerns the provider’s obligations in respect of its students’ union.
27Similarly, we cannot generally look at complaints about companies associated with a higher education provider, but which are separate legal entities. This would include, for example, a finance company providing credit for tuition fees, or a company providing student accommodation. We cannot look at complaints about placement providers such as schools or hospitals, or the employers of apprentices, unless they are members of the OIA. However, we can look at whether the higher education provider has fulfilled its obligations to its students in the arrangements it makes with these outside bodies.