Swansea University

6. Procedure for Dealing with a Student Complaint

The University believes that complaints should be resolved as expeditiously as possible. For this reason, the Procedure contains both informal and formal stages of the complaint process.  At each stage of the process, the person to whom the complaint has been referred shall, if it is upheld, wholly or in part, apply such remedies as are within their powers. If they consider that the remedy is outside their powers, they shall refer the matter to the appropriate authority/ person.

6.1

Stage One: Informal Resolution

It is anticipated that the majority of complaints can be resolved easily and quickly on an informal basis, at the time the problem first occurs and with the individual(s) directly involved.

If possible, the student should first raise their complaint, either orally or in writing, with the individual who is the subject of the complaint. Alternatively, the student may wish to discuss their complaint with the relevant Head of Department, Programme Director or Personal Tutor.

Informal complaints should be raised by the student as early as possible and within 3 months of the date of the event(s) giving rise to the complaint.

If a complaint is of a general rather than a specific nature, it may be more appropriate for the student to ask the relevant student representative to raise it at the Student-Staff Committee or other College Committee.

The University expects that attempts will be made to resolve the informal complaint, and the student to be notified verbally or in writing of the outcome, , wherever practicable, within 21 days of the receipt of the informal complaint. Mediation is also available to the parties - See Section 6.2.1 for details.

If the student is dissatisfied with the outcome of their informal complaint, they may escalate the complaint to Stage Two (the Formal Stage) of the Procedure within 21 days of the date of the notification of the outcome of their informal complaint (see Section 6.2).

6.2

Stage Two: Formal Written Complaint to Head of College or relevant authority (via Academic Services)

If the complainant is unable to resolve their concerns informally (in accordance with Stage One above) or they feel unable to approach the relevant individual(s) directly, they should submit a written complaint to Academic Services’ ‘Complaints Nominee’ within the following timescales:

  • within 21 days of the date of the response to the complainant’s informal complaint (if applicable), or
  •  (where no informal complaint had been submitted) within 3 months of the date of the event(s) giving rise to the complaint.

If a complaint is not received within the time limits stipulated, the complaint will normally be treated as not eligible for consideration on the basis it is ‘out of time’, unless the complainant shows there to be a compelling reason for not having submitted the complaint within the time limits (see also Section 3).  

If the complainant is unsure about the procedures, he/she may seek advice from Academic Services or Students’ Union Advice Centre

The written complaint should set out the following:

 

  • the nature of the complaint – this should be brief and to the point, referring to any specific events;
  • any informal steps already taken to include the names of any staff involved and the outcomes;
  • a statement as to why the complainant remains dissatisfied and, without prejudice to any formal remedy which might be determined, the resolution / outcome they are seeking;
  • copies of any documents / correspondence which are relevant to, or support, the complaint.

 

Any complaints submitted directly to the authority to which the complaint relates should be initially copied to Academic Services nominee.

The Academic Services nominee (referred to below as “the nominee”) will confirm in writing safe receipt of the complaint within 5 days of his/her receipt of the complaint. The nominee may ask the complainant to clarify and/or provide any further information in support of his/her complaint. The nominee will not however investigate or assess the complaint. 

 

6.2.1

Mediation / Alternative Dispute Resolution

Following receipt of the complaint and receipt of any further information or clarification from the complainant, the nominee may, at his/her discretion and with the agreement of the complainant and an appropriate representative from the College or Department (referred to below as “the representative”) nominated by the Head of the College/Department, refer the parties to mediation / alternative dispute resolution.

In such circumstances the Stage 2 Complaint will be put on hold (and the nominee will take no further action) whilst the mediation / alternative dispute resolution takes place.

Where the parties are referred to mediation, a copy of the written complaint will only be disclosed to the representative with the mediator’s prior agreement. If the issue(s) raised through the complaint is resolved through mediation, the mediator will assist the parties to draft a written agreement that will be signed by both parties.

In the event that no mutually acceptable solution is reached through the mediation / alternative dispute resolution process, the nominee will process the complaint under the Stage 2 Complaint Procedures after having received from the complainant, by a prescribed deadline, written permission to do so.

6.2.2

Formal Investigation by relevant Head of College/Department

If it is determined by the nominee that mediation / alternative dispute resolution is not appropriate or this is attempted but no mutually acceptable solution is reached, the nominee will (unless 6.2.3 below is followed) forward the complaint to the relevant authority to which the complaint relates, namely to:

  • the Head of College (if it relates to an academic matter) or, if the Head of College is the subject of the complaint, the Chair of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board (or nominee); or
  • the Head of the Professional Services Department concerned, e.g. the Director of Information Services and Systems etc., or if the Head of the Professional Services Department is the subject of the complaint, the Registrar or their nominee;

The relevant authority (or his/her representative) shall investigate the complaint and may gather further evidence from relevant persons at his/her discretion.

If the investigation involves a face to face meeting between the Head of College/Department or representative and the complainant, and/or the person against whom the complaint has been made, the latter two shall both be entitled to be accompanied by a friend or colleague (who is a member of the University and has no material interest in the complaint), or a Students’ Union representative.

At the conclusion of the investigation and following a review of the evidence received, the Head of College/Department (or representative) shall provide a decision on the complaint, to include either:

  • Upholding the complaint, in full or in part (and confirming any action to be taken accordingly); or
  • Dismissing the complaint where it is found to be unsubstantiated.

The representative shall notify the complainant in writing of his/her decision normally within 20 working days of the receipt of the complaint by the College/Department.    If it should prove impracticable to respond fully within 20 working days, the complainant shall be informed in writing of the timescale for the receipt of a full response.

Where the complaint is dismissed, the complainant shall be provided with full reasons for the decision and (unless there are compelling reasons for any documents or communications to remain confidential) copies of relevant documentation considered. The Head of College/Department or representative’s decision will represent the formal outcome of the Complaint Procedure. The complainant will be informed of their right to request a final review of the outcome of the complaint procedure under the Final Review Regulations.

The Head of College/Department or representative shall provide a copy of his/her written response to the student’s Stage 2 complaint to  Academic Services (via the nominee).

6.2.3

Formal Investigation by a Senior University Officer

If it is considered by the nominee that the issues raised in the complaint relate to several different Colleges/Departments, are of an extremely serious nature or are of relevance to the institutional as a whole, the nominee may, at his/her discretion, refer such complaint to a senior officer of the University, for example the Registrar, a Pro-Vice-Chancellor or the Chair of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board (or nominee).

In such cases, the senior officer shall arrange to investigate and determine the complaint in accordance with the procedures outlined under 6.2.2 in place of the Head of College/Department. A member of  Academic Services may assist the senior officer with their investigation and determination of the complaint.