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- Student Complaints
If you have a complaint, i.e. you are dissatisfied with the provision of a service, either academic or non-academic, by the University you can submit this in writing to the University so that the matter can be investigated and resolved. Details on how to submit a complaint and who to submit a complaint to are given below. Student complaints are governed by Regulation B7.
The overall complaints process
This page explains all of the stages of the process if you feel you need to complain about something at the University.
You can first try and resolve an issue informally with the member of staff involved, but if that doesn't solve the problem, you can speak to the Early Resolution Officer for the School or service in question. The Early Resolution Officer can look into your concern and provide you with a response. If Early Resolution doesn't solve the problem, you can then make a formal complaint to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students). There can also be times when Early Resolution is not suited to a particular problem. A formal complaint may include an investigation and at the end the Pro Vice-Chancellor will write to you to let you know their decision. If this doesn't resolve the matter, you may be able to submit a grievance to the Secretary to the University Council, subject to certain criteria, and have your case reviewed.
The flowchart below gives a summary of the complaints process for students.
Who do I talk to first about a problem?
In all cases, you are strongly encouraged to attempt to resolve a problem at the lowest level possible. A problem should initially be made known to the member of staff who is most directly concerned with the issue: if the problem is explained to them they can often provide an immediate explanation or solution.
If this does not lead to a solution, or it is not appropriate to discuss the issue with the member of staff, there are further steps you can follow to see if a problem can be resolved:
Every School and Service within the University has an Early Resolution Officer (and at least one Deputy) to act as a first point of contact for students experiencing issues with an academic or non-academic service. If you have attempted to resolve a problem direct with the member(s) of staff involved but believe it has not been resolved, you can contact the relevant Early Resolution Officer. Email addresses and contact details for Early Resolution Officers are provided in the Early Resolution section of this webpage.
If Early Resolution of a problem has been attempted but has not lead to a satisfactory solution, you can submit a formal complaint. You may also wish to submit a formal complaint where Early Resolution has not been attempted due to the issues being serious or complex in nature. Details on this process and how to submit a formal complaint are provided in the Formal Complaints section of this webpage.
Who can I go to for advice and assistance?
Your Personal Tutor can provide advice, support and general guidance on academic and non-academic issues. As they will be familiar with you, your circumstances and your programme of study, your personal tutor can often be the best source of advice to either help you understand what may be causing a problem, or to guide you on what you should do next.
If you are concerned about an element of your programme or course, you can contact your Student Voice Representatives. Student Voice Reps are elected representatives who gather student opinion and represent your views at Staff Student Voice Committee (SSVC). In some cases, for example if there is something about your course that you feel is not working and needs changing, talking to your Student Voice Reps who can then discuss the issue at the SSVC may be the best way to get the problem resolved. You can find details on the Student Voice Reps for your programme or course by visiting the Student Voice Representatives section of the Keele Students' Union website
If the issues you are concerned about are not about your programme, you can speak to the Advice and Support at Keele (ASK) service within the Students Union. ASK is a confidential service that operates independently from the University, and gives students advice and support across a wide range of topics. Find out how to contact ASK via this link.
The University's Student Support team is on hand to help students when they are experiencing a wide range of problems, including when something doesn't appear to be going right and you need to do something about it. Students can access support by contacting or visiting the Student Services Centre, which is a one-stop-shop for information, support or guidance, including 1-2-1 support and counselling where needed. Find out how to contact the Student Services Centre via this link.
You can also contact the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Team if you have questions about the complaints procedure.
What can I complain about?
The University complaints procedure covers complaints relating to:
- Any University Policy, Procedure or Regulation
- The provision of both academic and non-academic services (excluding academic assessment and judgement)
- The provision of both academic and non-academic facilities
- The conduct or actions of a member or members of staff
- Misinformation regarding academic programmes, University services and facilities
The procedure does NOT cover complaints relating to:
- Academic judgement
- Examination board decisions and appeals (details on how to appeal an examination board decision can be found here)
- Appeals against disciplinary decisions (details on how to appeal a disciplinary decision can be found here)
- Any external business operating on University premises
- Keele University Students’ Union
- Other student members of the University (if you are concerned about the actions of a fellow student, you should first speak to Student Services for confidential support and advice. Click here for information on how to contact Student Services)
If you are on a placement, your complaint should be submitted to the placement provider using their procedure.
Who can complain?
Anyone who is a current student and also those accepted onto a course of study at the University are able to make a complaint under Regulation B7. Complaints should normally be made no later than eight weeks after the event concerned.
A group of students is also able to make a complaint under Regulation B.7 providing that it is individually signed by each student in the group. A group of students making a complaint should have a nominated representative within the group to act as the primary contact.
In exceptional cases, complaints can be made anonymously; however, this must be done via Advice & Support at Keele (ASK) within the Students’ Union, or one of the Students' Union elected officers.
Is there a time limit?
A complaint can be made to an Early Resolution Officer up to eight weeks after the event concerned. If you are not satisfied with the result of your complaint after it has been dealt with by the Early Resolution Officer, you have ten calendar days from the date of the email sent by the Officer to then make a formal complaint.
If your case does not appear appropriate for Early Resolution due to its seriousness or complexity, then a formal complaint can be made up to eight weeks after the event concerned.
In all cases, the University would encourage concerns to be made known to staff as soon as possible.
Early Resolution is there to solve straightforward problems quickly. Every School and service will have at least one Early Resolution Officer (sometimes called the ERO), plus one or more deputies, who are there to help students resolve issues. For example, they might meet with a student to discuss a problem, contact other staff to help deal with an issue. Whatever approach is used, you will be provided with a written follow-up, normally via email. Early Resolution Officers can often help simply by giving students a space to talk about their concerns and then giving an on-the-spot explanation for the reasons for the problem or what can be done.
Contacting your Early Resolution Officer
Please contact your Early Resolution Officer by email. Addresses for all Schools and Services are below:
Postgraduate Research Students including MRes, MPhil, PhD
The Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct team will refer your email on to the member of staff dealing with Early Resolution for Postgraduate Research students within the relevant Faculty.
Foundation Year Centre
School of Health and Rehabilitation
School of Medicine
School of Nursing and Midwifery
School of Pharmacy
School of Humanities
Keele Management School
School of Law
School of Politics and International Relations
School of Social Sciences and Public Policy
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
School of Computing and Mathematics
School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
School of Life Sciences
School of Psychology
Chancellor's Building Reception
Conferences and Events
Estates Help Desk
Marketing and Communications
Academic Services (formerly Planning and Academic Administration)
Please include your full name and student number in any emails sent describing a concern or complaint. You should also give as much detail on the problem as you can, including dates, times, locations, and any staff or members of the University that you have dealt with.
If you are unsure which Early Resolution Officer you should contact, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance.
Making a Formal Complaint
Normally, a formal complaint is made when a student is not satisfied with Early Resolution of a problem. Details on how to get help from the appropriate Early Resolution Officer can be found in the section, Early Resolution, above. If you are not sure whether Early Resolution is the right way of dealing with your concerns, you should get some further advice from the ASK service within the Students' Union. Please see the section, Who can I go to for advice and assistance? for their contact details.
If after taking advice you decide to proceed with submitting a formal complaint, please download the Student Complaint Submission Form.
Once you have submitted the form, it will initially be acknowledged by the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct team. The form will be reviewed and you will then be notified in writing as to whether the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education & Student Experience) has accepted your complaint for investigation or not. There can be occasions when the Vice-Chancellor will nominate an alternative Pro Vice-Chancellor to deal with a complaint but the procedures as described in Regulation B.7 will still be followed in the normal way.
If your complaint is accepted, an Investigating Officer will be appointed by the Pro Vice-Chancellor to investigate the complaint on their behalf. This investigation may include: meeting with you to get further information and to clarify the complaint; meeting with any other members of the University involved in the issues for information and their version of events; and gathering any other relevant evidence.
For any meetings you are asked to attend during the investigation, you are able to have someone in the meeting venue with you for support, and this can be helpful. However, this must be a member of the University as defined in Statute 2. This could, for example, be a member of staff from Student Support, someone from the ASK service within the Student's Union (or a Union Officer), a fellow student (as long as they are not involved in the complaint).
Once the investigation is complete, the Investigating Officer will provide you with a preliminary report on their investigation to ask for your comment on the factual accuracy of what is reported (this may not be the same as agreeing with any findings that have been made). The Investigating Officer will take any comments you make into account in the final version of the report, which will include their recommendations based on their findings. This final version of the report will be sent to the Pro Vice-Chancellor who will consider it and make the final decision on your complaint. You will be notified of the Pro Vice-Chancellor's decision in writing.
There are occasions when a complaint may not be accepted by the Pro Vice-Chancellor. This can include occasions when what has been described in the complaint falls under a separate Regulation, for example if your complaint is in fact an appeal against a result. You would then be directed to the appropriate process. Another reason for not accepting a complaint can be because what has been described is not eligible for investigation, and this is explained in the section What can I complain about? found above. Finally, complaints may be rejected at any stage if they are found to be vexatious or malicious in nature, and students may find themselves subject to Regulation B.1, Student Discipline, if this is the case.
What if I am dissatisfied with a Formal Complaint investigation?
If you have submitted a formal complaint but are not satisfied with how it was dealt with, in exceptional circumstances you may submit a grievance to the University Council. Regulation B.7.9.1 states that grievances can only be submitted on one or more of the following grounds:
- There was a procedural irregularity prior to or in the conduct of the complaint investigation.
- There is new evidence that can be substantiated, including extenuating circumstances, which was not known at the time, and may have affected the outcome had it been known and that there is a valid reason for not making it known at the time.
A grievance to Council must be submitted within fourteen calendar days of the date of the complaint investigation outcome letter, and it must be sent to the Secretary to Council. For further information on how to submit a grievance of this type, click here.
If you you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint but do not have grounds to submit a grievance you may be able to apply for a review of your complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) providing that the case you take to the OIA is eligible under its rules. Should you decide to make a complaint to the OIA, you must request a Completion of Procedures letter from the University and you have one month from the date of your complaint outcome letter to do this. You should request the Completion of Procedures letter from the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Manager by email on email@example.com.
Full information for students on bringing a case to the OIA can be found on their website: www.oiahe.org.uk. Please note that the OIA will normally only review issues that have been dealt with through the University’s internal procedures.
When should I get a response to my complaint?
Informal matters and Early Resolution complaints
If you raise an issue or submit an Early Resolution complaint and you do not receive an acknowledgement within five working days, it is recommended that you first attempt to contact the member of staff or Early Resolution Officer dealing with your concerns. If you continue to receive no response, you should contact the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Team who will attempt to progress the matter for you.
If you submit a formal complaint, a member of the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct team will send you an acknowledgement within two working days. If you send in your complaint during a period when the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Office is not open, such as the Christmas vacation, you will get an automated email response straight away explaining when the office will re-open. You will get an acknowledgement from the Complaints team within two working days of the office re-opening if this is the case.
After sending you an acknowledgement, the Complaints team will send you an update within two weeks. This update will vary depending on your case. It may be a request for more information, an explanation of why your complaint cannot be dealt with by the Pro Vice-Chancellor, confirmation that your concerns will be looked into, or something else.
If you are told that your case is going to be looked into, the Complaints team will continue to update you on progress, ask for information or evidence, and ask you to respond to draft reports and similar items. You should have an update from the Complaints team at least every four weeks.
The University aims to deal with formal complaints as quickly as possible and will provide you with an indication of when an investigation will be completed. However, investigations do need to be thorough and fair which can lead to delays if, for example, extra information needs to be gathered. The Complaints team will explain the reasons for any delays in its regular updates to you.
If at any point during the investigation of your complaint you are advised that you will receive contact or correspondence within a specified time scale and you do not receive this, it is again recommended that you first attempt to contact the member of staff investigating your complaint for an update. If you are unsuccessful in doing so, please contact the Student Appeals, Complaints and Conduct Team who will look into the matter for you.
I am a member of staff, how do I help a student with a problem?
The University has published guidance on the Complaints Procedure for all academic and non-academic staff to refer to. It explains the steps in the process for complaints, and how to help a student if they approach you with a concern that you may be able to help them resolve. You can access the guidance document here.
I am a member of staff and a student has complained about me. Can I get support?
When a student makes a complaint against you, you may find it helpful in the first instance to seek support from your colleagues, but sometimes you may not be comfortable with doing that. As a member of staff, there are a number of services within the University that you can access for support should a student submit a complaint that involves you. The Occupational Health Service and the Staff Counselling Service, both within the Department of Occupational Health and Safety, are services that you can contact to request support and advice if you find yourself in this situation. These services can be contacted through the following means:
The University has a set procedure for processing and investigating any complaints that are submitted formally by students. More detailed information about this procedure and what you can expect to happen during the investigation can be found throughout the Student Complaints pages of the University website.