We are committed to providing a good service, whether you are a student, representing a student, or an OIA Point of Contact in a provider.
In reviewing complaints, as in all other aspects of our work, we are guided by our values. We will listen to you and treat you fairly and with respect, share information with you and try to answer any queries you might have.
Progressing the complaint and keeping you informed
We will keep you informed about the progress of the complaint. At each stage of our review we will explain what is happening or what we need from you. We will tell you about any decisions we have made and the reasons for them. Sometimes the decisions that we make, or the outcome of a complaint, are not what a student or a provider might expect or want. We hope that our explanations will be clear but if you have queries please contact the case-handler or our Casework Support Team.
We try to resolve complaints as quickly as we can. But some complaints can take several months, especially if there are many different issues and a lot of evidence to weigh up. Each case-handler will be responsible for several cases at a time and we are not always able to provide a quick decision or immediate response. Our Casework Support Team can answer most general queries but sometimes a case-handler needs to consider the information we have on a case before we can respond in greater detail.
Complaints that need to be resolved more quickly
All cases are important to the people involved, and most students are keen for us to resolve their case as soon as we can. If you think a complaint needs to be resolved especially quickly, or before a certain date, please let us know as soon as possible and explain why. In the interests of fairness to everyone who uses our service we will only prioritise a case if there is good reason for doing so. For example, we have prioritised cases where students have serious health issues, and where there is a strict time limit set by a professional body for a course to be completed.
Students sometimes tell us they feel we are biased towards the higher education provider; and providers sometimes tell us we are too favourable towards the student. If you are concerned about this, we hope we can reassure you. We are here to promote fairness for students, and we consider carefully whether a student has been treated fairly in the particular circumstances of their complaint. Being impartial is vital to our work, and we take steps to protect our impartiality. For example:
- our case-handlers don't review cases that involve a provider they have a connection with (eg where they studied) so that there is no conflict of interest
- our case-handlers are given extensive and ongoing training on how to review complaints
- our subscriptions system is designed so that whether we find a complaint Justified or Not Justified makes no difference to the amount that a provider has to pay (all providers that are members of our Scheme are required by law to pay our subscriptions)
- we are overseen by an independent Board and one of its key responsibilities is to protect the independence of our Scheme.
What we can and can't do
If you are a student considering whether to bring your complaint to us, we hope we will be able to help you. But it is important to be aware of what we can and can't do. We will normally only look at issues that the provider has already considered under its complaints or appeals processes. This may mean, for example, that we can only look at part of your complaint. We are a review body, so we look at how the provider has dealt with the complaint rather than investigating it ourselves. We look at whether the provider has followed its procedures and whether the procedures themselves are fair. Importantly, we also consider carefully whether the student has been treated fairly in the particular circumstances of their complaint.
Read more about whether you can complain to us.
Putting things right
If we find a complaint Justified or Partly Justified, we make Recommendations to put things right. We can make a wide range of Recommendations, for example for a student to have another assessment opportunity, to return to a course, or for financial compensation. So we are often able to put things right for a student in a way that for example a court could not. We expect providers to comply fully with any Recommendations we make. It is extremely rare that a provider does not comply, and if this happens we take action to resolve the situation.
Read more about our approach to putting things right.
We rely on the cooperation of all involved to progress our reviews effectively (see also How you can help us review your complaint). If someone acts in a way that is likely to have a negative effect on our staff or our work, we may take steps to address that.
We welcome feedback about your experience of using our Scheme. If you have specific concerns about the way a case is being handled, please first tell the person who is dealing with the case. If this doesn’t resolve your concerns, you can make a complaint about our service.