When we review a complaint, we will look at whether the provider followed its own procedures correctly, whether the procedures themselves were reasonable and whether the provider’s final decision was reasonable in all the circumstances.
We will decide whether the complaint is Justified, Partly Justified or Not Justified and will explain our decision in a Complaint Outcome. We may also explore whether it is possible to settle or mediate a complaint at any stage in our process.
If we decide a complaint is Justified or Partly Justified, we will normally make Recommendations when we issue our Complaint Outcome. For example, we may require the provider to review or change its procedures or regulations; review or change the way it handles appeals and/or complaints; make a financial award; or reconsider the student’s case. We normally try to put the student back in the position they were in before the events leading up to the complaint took place. However, this may not always be possible or go far enough to put the issues we have identified right, so we may award compensation or some other remedy. You can read more about how we try to put things right.
When we make a Recommendation, we will explain what actions the provider needs to take. We will also set a deadline for the provider to complete these actions. The provider and the student will both have the chance to comment on whether our proposed Recommendations are practical before we confirm them. Once we have confirmed them, providers are expected to comply fully with our Recommendations within the deadline we set. It is therefore very important to tell us if the course of action we have proposed is not something the provider will be able to do, or if it has any concerns about being able to complete the actions in the timescale we have set.
In our experience, providers almost always comply with our Recommendations. When a provider doesn’t comply we take it very seriously. It is reported to the Board and published in our Annual Report. If we are concerned about any potential issues with compliance, we will follow the process set out in following up casework-related compliance.
We may also make good practice suggestions in our Complaint Outcome, even if we decide the complaint is Not Justified. While we don’t monitor them for compliance as we do for Recommendations, the provider should reflect on any suggestions or observations we make and consider whether it needs to make changes to its practice or procedures.
Sharing the learning from our Complaint Outcomes
Unless there are very good reasons not to, the provider should share redacted copies of our Complaint Outcomes with the students’ union or other student representative body so the learning from our reviews can be shared. If the complaint is very sensitive, it may be necessary to provide an anonymised summary of the complaint and our conclusions instead. Our good practice Recommendations and suggestions rarely identify the individual involved, so we think these should routinely be shared with students’ unions or other student representative bodies.
Public Interest cases, case summaries, and complaints with wider implications
We publish summaries of our Complaint Outcomes, identifying the provider but not the student, when we decide it is in the public interest to do so. Often the Public Interest case summaries are grouped by theme. The Complaint Outcomes we select for publication can be Justified, Partly Justified or Not Justified. We will tell the provider if we decide to do this.
We also publish case summaries that do not identify the provider (or the student) by subject area or theme.
If we decide that a complaint has raised concerns about wider systemic issues, we may decide to share a summary of the complaint with the relevant regulator in England or Wales (such as the Office for Students, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales or the Quality Assurance Agency) or the relevant professional body (such as the GMC or NMC). We will tell the provider if we decide to do this.