36We normally expect students to follow their higher education provider’s internal procedures to their conclusion before complaining to us. This gives the higher education provider the opportunity to investigate and, where appropriate, put things right.
36.1The term internal procedures includes: student complaints, academic appeals, academic and non-academic disciplinary, fitness to practise, fitness for study, and breaches of codes of conduct and regulations.
36.2At the conclusion of any of these internal procedures, when there is no further avenue for the student within the higher education provider, the provider should send the student, or the student may request, a Completion of Procedures Letter. You can find further information about when providers should issue a Completion of Procedures Letter in our Guidance on Completion of Procedures Letters.
36.3We may decide to review a complaint in exceptional circumstances even though the student has not been through the higher education provider’s internal processes. We may consider doing this where there has been undue delay by the provider in progressing the complaint and there appears to be no prospect of early resolution, where we believe the higher education provider might be obstructing the complaint, or where there is nothing to be gained by progressing with the internal processes. In such a case we would need to be satisfied that the student had taken reasonable steps to progress the complaint. We might also accept a complaint where no Completion of Procedures Letter has been issued, where the higher education provider has unreasonably delayed in issuing a Completion of Procedures Letter, or has refused to do so, after the procedures have been completed. Again, we would expect the student to have pursued the matter first with the provider.
36.4There are circumstances where a higher education provider might issue a Completion of Procedures Letter even though its procedures have not been completed. For example, the student has not taken their complaint or appeal to the next stage, despite being clearly signposted to it, or has attempted to escalate the complaint or appeal after the higher education provider’s deadline for doing so has expired. In those cases, our review focuses on whether it was reasonable for the provider to refuse to proceed further with the student’s complaint or appeal. Normally we would not consider the issues raised in the complaint or appeal. Our Guidance Note regarding Completion of Procedures Letters provides more detailed information about this.
36.5Students sometimes raise issues in their Complaint Form which are not addressed in the higher education provider’s Completion of Procedures Letter. In those cases we will check which issues the student raised in their complaint or appeal to the higher education provider before we decide whether we should look at the matters raised with us. However, where a student wishes to complain about the way in which a higher education provider handled a complaint or appeal, or delays in that process, we do not expect the student to have to go through an additional internal procedure before bringing that complaint to us. We will normally consider whether a higher education provider has followed its procedures when reviewing a complaint whether or not the student has raised a concern about this.
36.6In exceptional circumstances, we might decide that it would be pragmatic to deal with issues which the student has raised as part of a wider complaint to us, but which the student did not raise with the higher education provider. We will explain to the higher education provider why we have decided to review those secondary issues as well as the substantive issues which it has considered.