5In most cases it will be clear that the provider has made its final decision and that its internal procedures have been completed. However, there are some circumstances where this is less clear. We set out some examples below and indicate whether COP Letters should be issued. (See section 14 for examples where more than one provider is involved).
5.1A COP Letter should be issued when the provider makes a decision that there are no grounds for the complaint or appeal to be escalated to the next stage of its procedures
If the provider has rejected the complaint or appeal at the formal stage of its process for example because the student has brought a complaint late, or an academic appeal does not fall within the permissible grounds, and there is no further appeal against that decision, the provider should issue a COP letter automatically. This is because there is nothing more the student can do internally.
Some providers’ regulations only allow a complaint or appeal to escalate to the review stage on narrow grounds such as procedural irregularity. In those cases, the provider’s decision letter should:
- explain to the student that there is a final stage, and
- explain clearly the grounds upon which the student can progress to the final stage, and
- explain that if the student does not have grounds to proceed, then they can ask for a COP Letter within a set period of time (not less than one month).
The provider should issue a COP Letter if the student requests one (because they have decided they do not have grounds to proceed to the review stage). In that case there is no need to issue a COP Letter automatically, because the student may decide that they can pursue their complaint or appeal to the review stage.
If the student asks for a COP Letter after the deadline has passed, then the provider should issue a COP Letter which states the date of its final decision on the complaint or appeal. The time for bringing the complaint to us will normally run from that date, rather than the date of the COP Letter.
5.2A COP Letter should be issued when a student initiates, or attempts to escalate, a complaint or appeal outside the provider’s time limits
The COP Letter should explain why the complaint or appeal is out of time and refer to the relevant regulations.
If the student then complains to us, our review would normally be limited to considering whether the provider acted reasonably in deciding the complaint was out of time, and whether it followed its procedures. If we find a complaint to be Justified in these circumstances, the likely outcome would be that we would send the case back to the provider.
5.3It is not normally necessary to issue a COP Letter if a student does not escalate their complaint or appeal to the next stage
If a student asks for a COP Letter because they want to bring the matter to us but they have not engaged with the provider’s procedures, the provider should respond promptly to the student, setting out clearly the next steps they can take to progress the complaint or appeal, and any deadlines that apply. It should not issue a COP Letter at this stage as internal procedures have not been completed.
If the student asks for a COP Letter and they are out of time to progress the complaint or appeal, then the provider should issue a COP Letter explaining that the student has not completed the internal processes, but that they are now too late to do so, and so there is there are no further steps that they can take internally.
If a student makes a complaint to us without a COP Letter, we will ask the provider to explain whether or not its internal processes are complete. If there are no further steps for the student to take internally, then we may ask the provider to issue a COP Letter setting out what has happened, or we may suggest that we treat the provider’s last decision letter as a COP Letter. See section 11 for more information.
5.4A COP Letter should be issued when the provider reaches a final decision that results in the exclusion or suspension of a student under any of its procedures, including disciplinary procedures
5.5A COP Letter should be issued when the provider reaches a final decision that results in a student being removed from student accommodation
5.6A COP Letter should be issued where a student makes both a complaint and an appeal about the same or related issues
The provider should issue a COP Letter in respect of each procedure, cross-referencing as appropriate. The student should be reminded that the 12 month time limit applies to both cases. We may decide to suspend our consideration of the first case in order to review both cases together.