Member providers need to let students know that they can use our Scheme. Providers should make sure they send students a Completion of Procedures Letter at any point where the student has reached the end of their processes and there are no further steps that they can take internally. Our Completion of Procedures Letter guidance note explains how and when providers should issue Completion of Procedures Letters.
Providers also need to make sure their regulations give clear information about our Scheme. The following guidance is to help providers make sure they are properly signposting students to our Scheme. It includes some wording for providers to use in their procedures. It is important that procedures follow these guidelines.
Guidelines for providers
It is important that students know that we may be able to independently review their complaint if they are unhappy with the outcome of the provider’s procedures. So information about our Scheme should be included in the procedures. A Completion of Procedures Letter should be issued at any stage the student has reached the end of a provider’s process and there are no further steps they can take internally. This might be at the end of the final stage of the procedure. But it could also be, for example, at any stage the provider makes a final decision that there are no grounds for appeal or that the student is out of time. We recommend that the paragraphs below (under Wording for providers’ procedures) are included in the introductory paragraphs of the procedure, rather than as further information after the final stage of the provider’s procedures.
Procedures should include a link to the student pages of our website. These pages include detailed information about our Scheme, the complaints we can and can’t look at, and what we can do to put things right. Providers should avoid giving their own guidance on our Scheme or our Rules within their procedures or other sources of information about us.
We don’t just look at the outcome of complaints and appeals procedures. Our Rules use the phrase “internal processes”, which includes
- student complaint and academic appeal procedures
- academic and non-academic disciplinary procedures
- fitness to practise and fitness to study procedures and
- breaches of codes of conduct and regulations.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so providers should check that all their procedures properly signpost students to our Scheme.
Some providers will be delivering learning opportunities with others. Providers and their collaborative partners should make sure procedures properly signpost students to our Scheme and follow the guidance set out in the Good Practice Framework: Delivering learning opportunities with others. The procedures should clearly set out whether, when, and how the student can take their complaint/appeal etc to an awarding partner.
It should be clear from the procedures that our Scheme is independent and not an extension of the provider’s internal processes. To avoid possible confusion, providers should not use job titles such as "ombudsman", "ombuds office" or "adjudicator" to describe the roles of those handling complaints and academic appeals, and should not refer to our process as a “stage” in the complaints or appeals process.
Procedures must be easy to read and easy to find, and students should have access to them whenever they need them. It is good practice to make sure procedures are on the provider’s public website as well as, for example, on an intranet or in handbooks.
Wording for providers’ procedures
We suggest that providers include the following paragraphs or similar in their procedures to help make sure students are properly signposted to our Scheme:
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) runs an independent scheme to review student complaints. [Name of provider] is a member of this scheme. If you are unhappy with the outcome you may be able to ask the OIA to review your [complaint/appeal/disciplinary case etc]. You can find more information about making a complaint to the OIA, what it can and can’t look at and what it can do to put things right if something has gone wrong here: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/students.
You normally need to have completed [this procedure/name of procedure] before you complain to the OIA. [Name of provider/We] will send you a letter called a “Completion of Procedures Letter” when you have reached the end of our processes and there are no further steps you can take internally. If your [complaint/appeal etc] is not upheld, [Name of provider/We] will issue you with a Completion of Procedures Letter automatically. If your [complaint/appeal etc] is upheld or partly upheld you can ask for a Completion of Procedures Letter if you want one. You can find more information about Completion of Procedures Letters and when you should expect to receive one here: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/providers/completion-of-procedures-letters.