Complaints

Hopefully your time here at De Montfort University will be one of the happiest times of your life. However from time to time, some students feel unhappy about particular aspects of their course or feel that they have been unfairly treated in some way by a University Department. If this is the case, you have the right to use the University’s Complaints procedure to highlight your concerns.

Can I complain?

The complaints process is for use by current or formerly registered DMU students. 

It cannot be used by prospective applicants for challenging admissions decisions – if you wish to complain about any aspect of the admissions process please see the University's Admissions Policy for more information 

If you are seeking to complain on behalf of somebody else you will need their written permission to do so.

Useful links to DMU policies / guidance

Below, you will find the University's policies and guidance which govern the standard DMU work towards. If you feel the University have not met the standards or policies here, you should include this within your complaint as this will add weight to your argument.

 Teaching Excellence Framework

Assessment & Feedback Policy 

One-page Overview

Taught Programmes Regulations 

Code of Practice for Research Degree Students 

 

Should I appeal or complain?

Appeals are restricted to matters related to the assessment procedure and are submitted after the assessment is finalised.  It is strongly recommended that you do not wait until that point to raise issues that arise, and that you utilise the complaints process at the earliest opportunity to try to resolve the problem, ideally before assessments are affected.  If you wait and later seek to appeal on this basis, your appeal will be rejected.

See the appeals section for more information about appeals.

What is the deadline?

Complaints should be made at the earliest opportunity in order that the matter can be addressed as quickly as possible to maximise the effectiveness of your complaint.  The University expects that all Stage 1 complaints will be submitted within 30 days of the issue occurring.  Complaints may be dismissed if they are received after 30 days if there is no valid reason for not raising the matter in a timely manner.

Students should expect a response to their Stage 1 complaint within 21 days, unless it is especially complex, in which case regular updates should be provided.

After receiving a response to your Stage 1 complaint, you have one month to proceed to Stage 2.

Students can expect a response usually within 20 working days.

After receiving a response to your Stage 2 complaint, you have one month to proceed to Stage 3.

Students should receive notification of the hearing and all relevent paperwork at least 10 working days before the hearing.  The hearing shall where possible be scheduled within a month of the submission of the Stage 3 complaint, and where not possible, an explanation should be provided.

After receiving the ‘Completion of Procedures’ letter, you have 12 months to have the complaint reviewed by the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator).

Can I remain anonymous?

No.  In order for the complaint to be investigated and responded to, names will be required.  

If you would like to raise an issue about your course without being identified you could try asking your course rep to raise it on your behalf.

How do I complain?

Stage 1 requires you to write to the department immediately responsible for the subject of your complaint.  For example, if you wish to complain about disability support, this should be addressed to the Disability team, and if you wish to complain about any aspect of your course you should address this within your faculty; either with your Programme Leader, or the Faculty Head of Studies or Dean.  Names and contact details are available from the DMU website or from your Faculty Advice Centre.

Complaints must be made in writing (email is fine).  There is no set format for a Stage 1 complaint however, we have provided a template you can use as a guide.  Stage 2 requires submission of a complaint form to the Student Appeals & Conduct Officer based in Academic & Student Services situated in Gateway House.

Make sure you retain a copy of your complaint and all the evidence you have submitted.

Stage 3 is submitted via the Student Appeals & Conduct Officer to the Chair of the Complaints Committee and if deemed sufficiently serious, will be reviewed by a Committee at a hearing.

Once the internal procedure has been exhausted, you receive a ‘Completion of Procedures’ Letter entitling you to take your complaint to the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator).

OIA complaints are submitted via an online form: It is recommended to prepare the text in a Word document first and cut and paste this into the form when you are ready to submit it.  This is because the form will time-out after 20 minutes causing you to lose the progress you have made.

What should I include?

We suggest you include the following:
•    your name
•    P number 
•    your preferred contact details
•    outline your complaint (giving specific details such as dates and full names)
•    a description of each piece of evidence you are providing to support your case 
(e.g. email dated xx/xx/xx from (name) to (name)
•    what (if anything) you have already tried to resolve the matter
•    what you would like to be done to resolve your complaint
•    a separate timeline of events may be a helpful summary if your complaint is lengthy

Don’t forget to keep a copy of the complaint and everything submitted with it (for reference).

Should I use a consumer complaints website to lodge my complaint?

Although it is possible to submit a complaint about DMU via a consumer complaints website, this is not recommended.  The website is unlikely to correctly identify the appropriate person to submit your complaint to, and if it reaches an incorrect recipient this could breach your confidentiality, and is likely to result in delays in your complaint being responded to.  Instead we recommend that you seek advice from DSU Advice and follow the DMU complaints procedure which is easily accessible and straightforward to follow.

How long will it take to get a response?

The standard timeframe for a response is 21 days, although this may vary depending on a variety of factors such as the complexity of the complaint, the number of people concerned and the availability of the relevant staff in order to fully investigate and respond to your complaint. Every effort should be made to respond within a timely manner so if you feel the delays are unacceptable you should discuss this with an Adviser from DSU Advice who may be able to help you chase up a reply.  Your Adviser will ask to see your complaint and if it hasn’t been received it may need to be re-sent so make sure you take a copy before you submit it.

Stage 2 complaints are aimed to be resolved or responded to within 20 working days.

Stage 3 timescales will depend upon whether a hearing is deemed necessary, and if so upon the availability of panel members.  Sufficient (10 working days) notice of a hearing also needs to be given to all parties but where possible the University aims to schedule the hearing within 30 days of receiving the Stage 3 complaint.

OIA complaints are usually responded to within 90 days but complex cases may take longer.

What will happen if I complain?

Initially the complaint will be investigated and responded to from within the immediate department or faculty (this is termed the local level).  A written response will be given in due course.  In some cases a meeting may be offered either to gather more information or to attempt a resolution.

If you remain dissatisfied and proceed to Stage 2, both your complaint and the ‘local’ response will be reviewed by the Appeals & Student Conduct Officer who sits within the Student & Academic Services division (not within any faculty) and therefore even though this is still an internal review, this provides a greater degree of objectivity and scrutiny.  Further investigations may be undertaken and again a written response will be issued in due course.

If you remain dissatisfied and proceed to Stage 3, your complaint will be reviewed by the Chair of the Complaints Committee, who will determine whether it is sufficiently serious to convene a complaints committee hearing.  If so, you will have the opportunity to attend and present your case to the committee, who will then make the final determination on your case.

Once the internal procedure has been exhausted, a ‘Completion of Procedures’ Letter is issued entitling you have your complaint reviewed by the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator).  

If you proceed to the OIA, all of the previous correspondence and documentation is reviewed by this external and independent review body.  In some cases they may be able to negotiate a settlement, otherwise, after concluding the review and finding it ‘justified’ or ‘partly justified’ they may recommend that the University resolves the complaint differently than before (within the Institution’s regulations) or they may dismiss the complaint as ‘not justified’.

Can I be penalised for complaining?

No.  You have a right to complain and the procedure is there to be used, so please don’t be afraid to use it.  Your grades cannot be affected by this and moderation acts as a further safeguard to ensure that marking is only done on the basis of the marking criteria set out for the programme.

Remember it is important to conduct yourself calmly and refrain from making threats or using offensive language.  When complaints arise, this can elicit strong emotions, but you are at all times subject to the University’s code of conduct and disciplinary action may be taken if your behaviour is in breach of this.

What can I do if my complaint is rejected?

If you are not satisfied with the response to your Stage 1 complaint, you have a month to escalate your complaint to Stage 2 by submission of a complaint form to the Appeals & Student Conduct Officer based in Academic & Student Services situated in Gateway House as above.

If you are not satisfied with the response to your Stage 2 complaint, you have a month to escalate your complaint to Stage 3, (see above) which will be decided on by the Chair of the Complaints Committee and if deemed sufficiently serious, will be then reviewed by a Committee at a hearing.

Once the internal procedure has been exhausted, you receive a ‘Completion of Procedures’ Letter entitling you to take your complaint to the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator).  The OIA will ask to see all paperwork submitted so make sure you retain copies.

If your complaint is about debt advice or debt counselling provided by the University the complainant has the right to request a review of the case by the Financial Ombudsman Service should they remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the internal complaints procedure.  

What can the OIA do?

The OIA will review all of the paperwork submitted, and may even ask for additional evidence from both parties to ensure they have the fullest information possible.  Additional evidence or comments obtained will be shared with the other party and if so an opportunity for response will be given.  They will inspect the action previously taken by the University to see if it is in line with DMU’s own Regulations and policies.

They will make a determination of ‘justified’, ‘not justified’ or ‘partly justified’ giving reasons for their decisions or in some cases they may be able to help ‘settle’ the complaint through mediation. The objective is to find a remedy which as far as possible returns the student to the position that they would have been in had the improper circumstances not occurred. Possible outcomes might include referral back to University procedures for redress, an apology or even financial compensation.  The OIA may also suggest or recommend that an institution amends procedures to promote best practice across the sector.

What can’t the OIA do?

The OIA cannot intervene in admissions decisions or matters of academic judgement. They can’t recommend an Institution contravenes their regulations or breaks the law. They will not accept any complaint where the Institution has not yet been given the opportunity to resolve it themselves.  

The OIA won’t accept out-of-time complaints.  They will not award punitive fines.  They cannot comment on matters relating to Human Resources such as staff discipline and would not make a recommendation for a member of staff to apologise, although the Institution might be advised to apologise on their behalf.  They would not normally consider awarding legal costs as arbitration process is intended as an informal alternative to court and therefore legal representation is not usually required.  If the matter has already been subject to legal proceedings the OIA will not consider it (unless stayed), likewise if another arbitration scheme has already ruled on the matter.  They will also reject complaints deemed to be frivolous or vexatious.

The OIA website contains lots of helpful guides with much more information e.g. ‘Using the Scheme' ‘OIA’s Approach to Remedies and Redress’ and ‘Recent Decisions'.

A response is usually given within 90 days but particularly complex cases can take longer.

Where can I access the OIA complaint form?

OIA Complaint Form

Where can I find the DMU complaints policy?

DMU Complaint Procedure

Can I get help with my complaint?

Yes. If you have any queries or concerns about the process, or need help to prepare your paperwork or would like representation in mediation or a hearing, ask DSU Advice for help.