Guide to Effective Complaining
Are you unhappy with some aspect of your course? Has the University failed to follow its procedures in some way? Or has a member of staff or another student behaved inappropriately towards you? A complaint may be a good way to solve the problem.
This guide is written with the University Complaints procedure in mind. However, many of the principles of successful complaining apply across other walks of life (consumer problems, accommodation issues and so on).
You can find the University Complaints Procedure in the University Calendar. It is designed to deal with problems ranging from the quality of teaching or supervision to bullying and harassment. You can use the procedure whether your complaint is against a member of staff or another student.
What Should I Do?
The first thing to do is to consider an informal resolution of the problem. It may be that the person responsible doesn’t realise that there is a problem in the first place. A calm discussion may be all that is required to resolve matters and maintain good relationships all round. The Advice Centre staff can help you prepare for this if you don’t feel confident about approaching University staff, or aren’t sure what to say.
Of course, informal resolution is not appropriate in every single situation – there will be some cases which are so serious that you do not want to approach the other person or do not feel it is appropriate (for example in some bullying or harassment cases).
It is always a good idea to decide what you want from the situation as this will help you focus on achieving a positive outcome.
If you do wish to proceed to the formal complaint stage, you should complete a stage 1 complaint form, which is available via the University Complaints Procedure. If you are still a registered student of the University, you can make a complaint up to 12 months from the date of whatever you are complaining about. If you are no longer registered at the University, the time limit is 6 months from the date the incident occurred. Complaints outwith this timeframe may be considered but only supported by evidence for the delay and this remains at the Clark of Senate’s discretion. The University Complaints Procedure has details of who you should send your complaint to (this depends upon the type of complaint).
At any time during this process, if you are at all unsure, want to talk it over with someone or would like to request representation, please contact The Advice Centre and our trained and experienced staff will be happy to help. You can also read our Tips for Writing a Stage 1 Complaint. If your complaint is about harassment, the University has specially trained Harassment Advisors who may be able to help. Their details are here
Complaint Form Checklist
Use this list to check that you’ve included all the information that the Complaint Investigator will look for before you submit the complaint form.
•Have you included your name, address, phone number and email address?
•Have you clearly stated what the problem is that you are complaining about?
•Have you given enough detail for the investigator to understand the situation?
•Have you included your evidence? If you’ve mentioned things like a doctor’s letter or excerpts from your course handbook, you should include these.
•Read through your complaint – have you stuck to the facts? Is your complaint easy to read? If not, it’s likely the complaints investigator will also think this.
•What remedy have you asked for? Is it realistic?
Once you’ve checked that you have everything, you’re ready to submit your complaint. If you’re not sure about anything in your complaint form, one the Advice Centre staff members can read through it to see if they think you’ve missed any important details.
If your Stage 1 complaint is not upheld, and you believe that the investigator made a mistake, or did not take all the relevant information into account, you can ask for a review under Stage 2. You have 10 working days after receiving your stage 1 outcome, in which to do this. Details of how to request a stage 2 review are in the University Complaints Procedure. Again, the Advice Centre staff can help you with this.
After Stage 2...
If you have been through stages 1 and 2 and are not satisfied with the way your complaint has been dealt with, you may wish to consider a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman..