An important part of your role as our Point of Contact is to provide the information we need to carry out our reviews of complaints. You can read more about how we collect relevant information about complaints on our Collecting the information we need page.
What will we ask for?
Whenever we ask you to send information to us we will explain what we need. We will always try to make sure that our information requests are proportionate to the individual complaint, but you are welcome to contact the case-handler dealing with the complaint if you are unsure why we have asked for something. However, providers should comply with any reasonable request for information that we make, and this expectation is set out in our Rules and the legislation underpinning our Scheme.
What else do we need to know?
Please tell us if any of the issues in the complaint have not previously been raised by the student or if you think any part of the complaint is something we can’t look at. It is helpful if you also tell us about anything that has taken place since the Completion of Procedures Letter was issued that might be relevant to the complaint, for example, if the student has accepted an offer they previously rejected, or if they have passed a reassessment related to the appeal that is the subject of our review.
It is very important to make us aware of any legal proceedings that may be relevant because this could affect whether we can review the complaint.
We normally share the information you send us with the student. In very limited circumstances we might agree to accept information on the basis that it is not to be disclosed to the student, for example where the information relates to an ongoing criminal investigation. If you think there are good reasons for any of the information you are sending us to remain confidential, please let us know.
Responding to our information requests
We will give you a deadline for sending information to us. It is important to get this to us on time. If there are good reasons why that is not possible, please contact us to ask for an extension. You can find more information about our approach to such requests on our Deadlines and extensions page.
When you provide the information we ask for, please organise it in a logical way, use an accessible format and check that the information has been properly redacted. The best way to submit information is using your secure MyOIA portal account. This helps us to review the complaint effectively and to avoid problems arising as we progress our review.
When sending information to us, it is helpful to:
- Include a cover letter or email that summarises the key issues that were considered by the provider under its internal processes and the provider’s response to the complaint.
- Include a contents page or index of the information you are sending us. This makes it easier for us to check we have all the information we asked for, especially if the contents page or index:
- says where the documents can be found for example, section 1, page 108, Stage 1 Appeal.doc
- refers to documents with the corresponding file name
- cross references the numbers used in our original request.
- Include a timeline of key events (eg Stage 1 Appeal submitted, Stage 1 Appeal rejected). If the case is very straightforward a timeline might not be necessary, but it can be very useful when:
- the internal procedures took a long time
- the order of events is unclear from the documents, or there are gaps that need to be explained
- the student has been through several different procedures
- the student is complaining to us about several issues that they raised at different times.
- Tell us what information was available and considered at each stage of the internal processes.
- Tell us if any of the information we asked for has not been provided and explain why, eg "no minutes taken" or "not relevant to the complaint because...".
- Tell us which procedures or regulations were used (including the relevant year) and include a copy or link if they haven’t already been sent to us to include in our regulations bank. If there might be any confusion, for example because the links may change as regulations are updated, please send us a copy.
Organise the information
Please organise any information you send to us chronologically or in another clear and logical way. It’s important that we know what information was considered when, and that we understand the order and timing of events and can easily find key information.
- If you are sending documents in a single PDF file, please use tabs or bookmarks to separate the documents into different sections for each stage of the procedures if you can.
- If you are sending documents in separate PDFs, they should be clearly named eg section 1 – Appeal document, section 2 – Regulations and handbooks.
- Each section should be organised chronologically if possible.
- Avoid unnecessary duplication. If the same documents were considered at different stages of the provider’s internal procedures, you only need to send them to us once. But please make it clear in the contents page or index when the documents were considered. Please also avoid sending duplicates of the same chain of email messages. This can make case files very large and make it more difficult to find key information.
- If you are sending the information to us via the MyOIA portal or by email, please keep the attachment size under 25MB.
Use an accessible format
Please send information to us in an accessible format. We expect the information to be sent electronically rather than in hard copy.
- Wherever possible information should be sent to us as a single PDF. These types of file generally avoid compatibility issues when we process the information and send it on to the student. They also make it easier to redact any remaining third-party information.
- If you need to send us multiple files, they should have a clear and understandable file name which we can cross reference with either the contents page or index, or our original request.
- As the MyOIA portal is a secure file sharing site there is no need to password protect documents or compress files into a folder to upload them.
- While we ask that information is provided in PDF format, if this is not possible and documents can’t be uploaded via the MyOIA portal these can be sent by email. Please clearly label any attachments.
- Avoid sending emails within emails which often create difficulties when we send them on to students for comment and could mean we miss something.
- Don't send original documents. You can scan and send us any information considered in hard copy by the provider. If we need to see original documents, for example because the complaint involves the analysis of handwriting or marks on the original documents, we will ask for them.
Redact the information
It is important to consider providers’ responsibilities under data protection legislation when sending information to us. For example, please make sure to redact other students’ personal data (including student numbers) from minutes of exam board meetings or mitigating circumstances committees before sending them to us. Please also make sure that where information is redacted electronically, hidden or filtered text can’t be revealed. You may also need to redact personal information about staff or other third parties.
If documents have not been properly redacted we may return them to you to be redacted.
We have produced separate guidance for providers on supplying personal data which sets out our understanding of existing guidance on data protection legislation.