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What is the complaints procedure?
The RCA complaints procedure covers a range of issues from academic to non academic but there are 5 specific grounds for a complaint:
- Failure to meet specifications outlined in programme or student charter
- Misleading information in prospectus, promotional material or other information provided by the college.
- Inadequate delivery of teaching, programme and administration.
- Failure to provide facilities, learning resources and other materials in accordance with the published student information.
- Complaints in relation to other contractors providing services on behalf of the college.
What are the stages to a complaint?
Stage 1 (local resolution)
A written complaint is submitted to your personal tutor or Head of programme.
Attempts are made to resolve the issue informally.
Stage 2 (formal complaint)
If you are unhappy with the response you receive at an informal level you can progress your complaint to a formal complaint. This is submitted to the dean of your school.
A panel may be convened to look over your complaint.
Stage 3 (review)
If you are still unhappy with the outcome. You can put in a request for a review.
There are criteria that must be met in order to conduct a review.
If met, the chief operating officer of the college is asked to look over the complaint and make a final decision.
When can I put in a complaint?
In order to have your complaint assessed you must submit it within 3 months of the event you wish to resolve or within 3 months of your graduation, or termination of registration.
When can I expect to hear back about my complaint?
There can be multiple stages to any one complaint and each stage has its own particular time frame that should be abided by.
Stage 1: LOCAL RESOLUTION
You should hear back within 10 working days of the college receiving your complaint. If a meeting is requested by the subject of the complaint this should be conducted within 15 working days of the receipt of the complaint. If there is no resolution within 20 working days of the submission of the complaint, you may progress to stage 2.
Stage 2: FORMAL COMPLAINT
If you are to progress to another stage of the complaint, you must submit the subsequent complaint 30 days after the completion of the last proceeding. You should expect to hear back within 20 working days of submission. In some cases, the registrar may decide that a panel should be convened. If a hearing is scheduled you should receive confirmation of a date within 10-20 working days.
Stage 3: REVIEW
If you are not happy with the outcome of the second stage of your complaint you can request an appeal on the following grounds:
- That the provisions of the complaints policy was not applied properly e.g. It was not conducted within the outlined timeframe.
- That the decision of the registrar/investigator cannot be sustained considering the evidence provided.
- That new evidence has become available that could have not reasonably been presented at stage 2.
- That the recommendations were not sufficient and/or proportionate to the complaint.
You must submit a request for an appeal within 20 days of receiving the stage two decision. You should expect to hear back within 20 working days.
How can I write a complaint?
When it comes to writing the actual complaint it is really important that you are clear and concise. You can ensure this by doing the following:
- Explain the events in the order in which they happened.
- If your complaint is long, number your points to help provide some structure.
- Make reference to the university's obligation to you as a student. For example, how does your complaint link to the specification outlined in the grounds for complaint?
- Where relevant, outline the ways that your student experience may have been affected. Are there any other ways you have been affected such as emotionally/physically/financially?
- Have a clear idea of what you would like to be done to resolve the issue. Ask yourself, what could make this better? Is my demand reasonable and proportionate? Does it provide redress or remedy?
It is important to provide evidence that will help strengthen your complaint. For example, this can be dated emails and letters, medical notes, witness statements or a report from a third party e.g. police. Make sure that this is attached before you submit your complaint.
Can I have legal representation?
No, as it is an internal procedure lawyers do not have any jurisdiction. If lawyers were to be involved then there would be a halt on the RCA complaints proceedings until any legal proceedings have been completed.
What happens if my complaint goes to a panel?
At stage two of the complaint, the registrar may decide that it is worth convening a panel to help decide the outcome of your complaint. This should be done within 10-20 working days of the complaint being received. You are allowed to take someone with you for support, this can be a fellow student, university staff member or a student union staff member.
What are the potential outcomes for my complaint?
This means that your complaint has been accepted and the university will make the effort to implement all recommendations and remedies proposed by the complainant/panel.
This means that there are some elements of the complaint that have been acknowledged and it is expected that some of the recommendations will be implemented.
This means that the complaint has been dismissed and there is no course of action following this decision. With all outcomes, there will be a written response explaining the decision.
What can the students’ union do to support me?
The main thing we can do to help you when putting in a complaint is explain the procedure to you and answer any questions that may arise. Initially a meeting can be arranged with the Communities Officer and a Sabbatical Officer to talk you through the procedure and the options available to you. We can assist in providing advice around evidence and documents which may help you write your complaint and strengthen your case. We can also accompany you to meetings or panels but do so in a supportive capacity. The Students’ Union does not have power over the outcome or direction of a complaint. If all internal procedures do not provide the desired outcome we can advise on how to take your complaint forward to impartial external bodies for review such as the OIA.
Can I submit a group complaint?
This is most suitable when a group of students are complaining about the same issue, for example you may want to submit a complaint as a course. In this case, the group can put forward a representative who will speak and act on their behalf. They will be the main point of contact for the university, so all communication between the university and the group will be done through them.
What are my options if my complaint meets a dead end?
If all options have been exhausted within the university complaints procedure and you are still dissatisfied with the outcome, you can take your complaint to the Office of Independent Adjudicator (OIA). They provide an independent, impartial and transparent review of complaints that are made by students against a higher education provider. The OIA can look over complaints 12 months after a completion of procedure letter has been issued.