OIA introduces new Rules for Large Group Complaints

The OIA has introduced additional Rules for Large Group Complaints

View the additional Rules for Large Group Complaints
Tetris blocks image

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 continues to cause. While such events don’t necessarily lead to large groups of students complaining to us, it’s important that we are properly prepared.

The new Rules enable us to adapt our normal review process so that we can handle complaints from large groups of students more efficiently whilst maintaining fairness. The process builds on our existing approach to group complaints. It is intended for complaints from a large group of students at a single provider where there is a high degree of commonality between the complaints and where the complaints could be considered collectively. We think it is unlikely that this kind of situation will occur very often, but that the new Rules will help us to handle any such complaints in a way that works better for everyone involved.

Although the process is more streamlined than our current process for group complaints, our approach to decision making will remain the same as under our normal process: we will consider what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances of the complaint.

We first consulted on the proposed additional Rules in November 2020. We made some changes and provided further information following the consultation, and invited comments on the revised proposals. The final version of the additional Rules and the Guidance that accompanies them have been informed by the feedback we received. The additional Rules were approved by our Board at the end of March.

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator said:

“The aim of the Large Group Complaints process is to ensure that, if a large group of students complains to us, we can handle their complaint efficiently as well as fairly. We are grateful to everyone who has engaged with us as we developed this process.”


Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Sarah Liddell, Head of Leadership Office, mediarelations@oiahe.org.uk, 0118 959 9813.

  1. We have published the additional Rules that apply to Large Group Complaints and accompanying guidance on our website. The Rules of the Scheme apply to Large Group Complaints except as set out in the additional Rules.
  2. 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.
  3. Our Scheme is free to students, and has been designed to be accessible to all students, without the need for legal representation.
  4. We have a wide remit to review student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales, as set out in our Scheme Rules.
  5. In 2020 we received 2,604 complaints. Complaints to us have risen steadily over the last few years.
  6. The new Large Group Complaints process is part of our ongoing work to continually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our service.
  7. You can find further information about the Scheme and our work at https://www.oiahe.org.uk/.