Consultation on draft OIA Rules for Large Group Complaints

We are consulting on draft Rules for Large Group Complaints.

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In recent years there have been events affecting the higher education sector that have had the potential to lead to large numbers of complaints to us, including the impact of Covid-19 and the unprecedented disruption it is causing. While such events don’t necessarily lead to large groups of students complaining to us, it’s important that we are properly prepared and that we can handle large group complaints in a way that works for everyone involved.

We developed our approach in response to the industrial action in 2018-19 and to the closure of GSM London, streamlining our processes to enable us to manage the complaints effectively and efficiently. We now propose to build on this and on our existing approach to group complaints by developing a bespoke approach to handling complaints from large groups of students.

Our proposed Large Group Complaints process recognises that to provide an effective service for handling very large group complaints, we would need to consider such complaints collectively rather than focusing on individual aspects and to adapt our normal review process, so that we can handle them efficiently whilst maintaining fairness. The proposed process would require an amendment to our existing Rules and new Rules for Large Group Complaints which are set out in the consultation. 

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator said:

“In these turbulent times it is important that we do everything we can to provide an effective service for all students who need us. If a very large group of students were to complain to us, our proposed new process would help us to handle their complaints fairly and efficiently, minimising the work involved for the students and the provider. This would in turn reduce the impact of a Large Group Complaint on our ability to review complaints from other students.”


Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Sarah Liddell, Head of Leadership Office,, 0118 959 9813.

  1. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) is the independent student complaints ombuds service for higher education in England and Wales. It is the designated operator of the student complaints’ scheme under the Higher Education Act 2004.
  2. Our Scheme is free to students, and has been designed to be accessible to all students, without the need for legal representation.
  3. We have a wide remit to review student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales, as set out in our Scheme Rules.
  4. In 2019 we received 2,371 complaints. Complaints to us have been rising steadily by around 20% per year over the last few years and this has continued in 2020.
  5. Events affecting the higher education sector have not to date resulted in a large group complaint to us, and we are not imminently anticipating one. We are developing the Large Group Complaints process as a pre-emptive measure so that we are prepared if a large group complaint were to reach us. This is part of our ongoing work to continually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our service.
  6. The government noted our proposed Large Group Complaints process in its response to the Petitions Committee’s report on the impact of Covid-19 on university students.
  7. You can find further information about the Scheme and our work at