What happens when a student complains to us?
We will contact the student (or their representative) in writing to confirm we have received their complaint as soon as we can. We will also send a copy of this acknowledgment to the provider.
The student and provider can both track the complaint via MyOIA.
If a student has appointed a representative to deal with their complaint on their behalf, we will normally communicate with that person instead of with the student.How to complain to us
We will do some basic checks to decide if the complaint is one we think we can look at under our Rules. We may need to ask the student or the provider for more information to help us make this decision.
If we decide that the complaint is not one we can look at under our Rules, we will write to the student and the provider to explain why.
The student and the provider have 14 days to appeal this decision.
If we think we can look at the complaint, we will allocate it to a case-handler.
Our initial consideration of the complaint
The case-handler will take a more detailed look at the information sent to us. They will send the student and the provider a summary of their understanding of the complaint and confirm whether the complaint is one we can look at under our Rules. Sometimes we can look at part of a complaint but not all of the issues raised. We may need to ask the student or the provider for more information to help us make this decision.
If the student or the provider thinks we have made the wrong decision about whether we can or cannot review a complaint, they can explain why and ask us to reconsider our decision by writing to us within 14 days.
We will send a copy of the Complaint Form and any other information the student sends to us to the provider. If the complaint is one that we can look at, we will ask the provider to send us its comments on the complaint along with any other information we think we will need to review the complaint.
Any information the provider sends to us will also be shared with the student and the student will be able to comment on it.collecting the information we need
Deciding how to progress the complaint
We may be able to issue a Complaint Outcome giving our decision on the complaint at this stage.
Depending on the circumstances we might also:
- Decide the complaint needs to be allocated to another case-handler for further review.
- Try to settle or mediate the complaint. We may explore whether it is possible to settle or mediate the complaint at any stage in our process.
- Ask for more information or comments from the student or the provider.
- Contact the student to discuss the complaint and whether their desired outcome is possible.
We will write to both the student and the provider explaining what we have decided to do and why.
If we decide the complaint needs to be reviewed further, we will allocate it to a case-handler as soon as we can.
We may need to ask the student or the provider for more information during our review.
Our review will normally look at whether the provider properly applied its regulations and followed its procedures, whether the procedures were reasonable and whether the provider’s decision was reasonable. We are a review body and won’t normally investigate matters afresh. Our review is independent of the student and of the provider and its internal procedures.
We will decide whether the complaint is Justified, Partly Justified or Not Justified and will explain our decision in a Complaint Outcome.
If we decide the complaint is Not Justified, we will close the complaint when we send our Complaint Outcome to the student and the provider.
Justified or Partly Justified
If we decide the complaint is Justified or Partly Justified, we will make Recommendations and send them to the student and the provider with our Complaint Outcome.
Commenting on our Recommendations
Both the student and the provider are given the chance to comment on the practicality of our Recommendations before we confirm them.
We will look at any comments we receive and decide whether we need to change any of our Recommendations. When we have made this decision, we will either confirm our Recommendations and close the complaint; amend or make new Recommendations; or continue with our review.
We expect providers to comply fully with any Recommendations we make. We will monitor the provider’s compliance with our Recommendations.
Reopening our review
A student or provider may ask us to reopen our review after we have issued our Complaint Outcome. We may decide to do this if there is new evidence that could not have been given to us earlier, or we think there is an error in the Complaint Outcome, and the new evidence or error might have seriously affected the outcome of our review.
What if the complaint is not one we can look at?
We decide early on in our process whether the complaint is one we can look at under our Rules. Sometimes it only becomes clear later that we cannot look at some, or all, of the things the student has complained about. If at any stage we decide a complaint is not one we can look at, we will contact the student and the provider to explain why and we will close the complaint.
If the student or the provider thinks we have made the wrong decision about whether the complaint is one we can look at, they can explain why and ask us to reconsider our decision by writing to us within 14 days.
If we decide we can review some parts of the complaint but not others and the student tells us they disagree, we may set out our final decision in our Complaint Outcome.
What if the complaint is settled?
When the student and provider both agree to settle, we will close the complaint and end our review. However, the student can ask us to reconsider the complaint if the provider does not do what it agreed to do.
What if the complaint is terminated or suspended?
We may decide to terminate or suspend our review at any stage for the reasons given in our Rules. For example, we may terminate our review if we decide that the provider has satisfactorily dealt with the complaint or if we can no longer contact the student. If we decide to terminate or suspend our review, we will always explain why. The student can ask us to reconsider our decision within 14 days.
What if the complaint is withdrawn?
If a student no longer wants to pursue their complaint, they can withdraw it at any stage by letting us know in writing or over the phone. We will close the complaint and let both the student and the provider know we won’t be taking any further action because it has been withdrawn.
How long will it take?
The length of time it takes us to complete our review depends on lots of different things, including the complexity of the case and whether it is possible to settle the complaint. Each complaint is individual.
It is not always possible to provide a quick fix solution. Some complaints may take six months or longer to review if the information we need takes a long time to collect or the case is highly complex. Other complaints will take much less time to review.
If a student or a provider believes there are reasons why we need to review a case especially quickly, or before a certain date, they can ask for it to be prioritised. Please see What you can expect from us for more information.
Case-handlers gather information until they are sure they have everything they need to make a decision. Once the case-handler has everything they need, they will write to the student and the provider to let them know they have a complete case file.
We will normally send the Complaint Outcome to the student and the provider within 90 days of deciding we have all the information we need. If a complaint is highly complex it might take us longer than normal to complete our review.
Will we hold a meeting or hearing?
Our Rules allow us to hold a meeting or a hearing if we decide we need to. We won’t normally hold a meeting with the student or the provider to discuss the complaint. We will do so if the student has particular difficulties with communication and a meeting would help us to understand the complaint.
A hearing is more formal than a meeting: both parties have the opportunity to argue their case in front of the decision maker. We won’t normally hold a hearing unless we decide it is necessary to help us reach a decision on the complaint.
What if the complaint is about discrimination?
When we review complaints about discrimination, we don’t act like a court. We don’t investigate in the same way as a court or try to guess what a court might decide in the same case. We won’t make findings that a provider has discriminated against a student. However, we refer to the law and guidance on discrimination to reach a view about what is good practice and to decide whether the provider has acted fairly.