Calendar 2022/23

H - Student Complaints Procedure

 

[Procedures for Partner Institutions: All partner institutions delivering programmes validated by the University of Exeter are required to follow the procedures below, except that 'College Pro-Vice Chancellor' shall be taken to mean Head of the academic unit concerned, who shall keep the Principal of the partner institution informed.]

If you are looking for the 2019/20 procedures, please click here: Student Complaints procedure 2021/22 

1

Introduction

 

This Procedure provides a mechanism for addressing concerns raised by students promptly, fairly and effectively in order to help the University of Exeter achieve the highest quality in its education and research provision.

2

Guiding principles

2.1

The University seeks to minimise student complaints by ensuring that students have opportunities to participate in formal decision-making processes at all levels and by encouraging regular feedback through Student/Staff Liaison Committees, Postgraduate Research Liaison Forums, or any other relevant student forums.    

2.2

In the event that you are dissatisfied with a University service, the University will seek to:

 

(a) resolve the matter at the earliest possible opportunity;

 

(b) investigate the matter fairly and thoroughly;

 

(c) ensure the process is unbiased.

2.3

It is the intention of this procedure that complaints are resolved as quickly and at as early a stage as possible.

2.4

In order to achieve this, the University asks that you will have observed your own obligations and raised the problem as soon as it arose.

2.5

The University will ensure details of your complaint will remain confidential to the parties concerned.

2.6

The University expects that you respect the complaints process. In doing so you are required to ensure that details of your complaint remain confidential. Failure to do this could be considered an attempt to influence the outcome of your complaint, and may result in the withdrawal of this procedure (in accordance with section 2.12 below). This does not preclude you from seeking advice/support as appropriate from relevant support services, eg University Welfare Advisors, Students' Guild Advice Unit (or see section 5.1 below).

2.7

In the interest of fairness, you, and anyone else directly involved in the complaint, will be entitled to see all evidence to be considered and to put their case.

2.8

If there is to be a hearing, all those directly involved will have the right to attend and to be heard, subject to 3.5 below.

2.9

Anonymous complaints or evidence will not be considered. If you wish to raise a concern, but want to remain anonymous, you can make use of the Exeter Speaks Out anonymous reporting tool.

2.10

The burden of proof will be on the complainant.

2.11

The standard of proof will be on the balance of probability.

2.12

If there are allegations of a criminal offence, the University may refer the matter to the police and suspend its own proceedings until the outcome of any criminal proceedings are known, other than where the University needs to act in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and third parties, including visitors.

2.13

You will not be disadvantaged as a result of making a complaint. However, if it is later discovered that a complaint was frivolous, malicious or vexatious, the University may consider referring you to its Disciplinary Procedure.

2.14

Frivolous, malicious and/or vexatious complaints are defined as:

- complaints which are obsessive, harassing, or repetitive
- insistence on pursuing non-meritorious complaints and/or unrealistic, unreasonable outcomes
- insistence on pursuing what may be meritorious complaints in an unreasonable manner
- complaints which are designed to cause disruption or annoyance
- demands for redress which lack any serious purpose or value

2.15

The University has a responsibility to protect its staff against unacceptable behaviour and provide a working environment that is safe, respectful and tolerant. Consequently it is expected that students, their representatives and staff members should act reasonably and fairly towards each other and treat the process with respect. Behaviour that is unreasonable, aggressive or abusive, verbal or written, will not be tolerated and may result in your access to the procedure or to staff connected with your complaint being limited or withdrawn. 

 

The decision to limit or withdraw access is not taken lightly. In the event that this decision is taken we will provide this in writing, including the reason(s) why this decision has been taken.

 

In the event that your access to staff or to the Complaints Procedure is limited or withdrawn, you may appeal the decision by submitting your grounds in writing to the Director of Compliance, Governance and Risk (or nominee) who will review the appeal with the Academic Dean for Students or Associate Academic Dean for Students, or the Dean of Postgraduate Research or Associate Dean of Postgraduate Research (as relevant). Your appeal should be submitted to studentcases@exeter.ac.uk

 

The Director of Compliance, Governance and Risk (or their nominee) will request copies of all documentation from the College/Service concerned. 

2.16

Appeals against the decision to withdraw your access to the complaints procedure or to withdraw access to staff connected with a complaint must be made within 10 working days of the decision being notified to you using the Appeal against Withdrawal of Procedure form.

2.17

We will normally aim to resolve an appeal within 30 calendar days of receipt of the appeal, or otherwise inform you of the expected delay.

2.18

For your appeal to be accepted you will need to demonstrate one or more of the following grounds and provide supporting evidence:

 

(a) Evidence of procedural irregularities 

 

(b) Evidence of bias

 

(c) Decision reached is one that no reasonable body (properly directing itself and taking into account all relevant factors) could have arrived at

 

You should send copies of all relevant documentation with the Appeal against Withdrawal of Procedure form to studentcases@exeter.ac.uk

3

Who may use this procedure and in what circumstances

3.1

You may only use this procedure if you are a registered student of the University of Exeter[2] at the time you make your complaint or, in the case of taught students, your complaint is made within 30 calendar days of ceasing to be a registered student. If you are a postgraduate research student, you may use the procedure for up to 30 calendar days after you have been notified of your final award or your withdrawal.

3.2

The procedure is available for you to raise concerns about your University experience for example with respect to the teaching, supervision or support services or concerns relating to Equality and Diversity and/or Dignity and Respect.

3.3

This procedure does not cover academic appeals which are dealt with under the Appeals Procedure which can be found at  http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/policies/calendar/part1/otherregs/appeals/. However, where an appeal depends on the resolution of a complaint, both the appeal and complaint should be submitted within specified timescales but the complaint will normally take precedence and consideration of the appeal will wait for the outcome of the complaint.

3.4

The complaints procedure is principally for the use of individual students. Where, however, several students have a common complaint they may raise the matter as a group. To do so they will need to identify one of their number to act as a spokesperson. It will be the spokesperson who will act on behalf of the group, and normally only the spokesperson will attend the meetings on behalf of the group. At the formal stages, each member of the group must sign the statement of the complaint for it to be accepted as a valid group complaint. 

3.5

Exceptionally, where a group wishes to complain but no individual is willing to act as the group's spokesperson, its members may collectively ask the Students' Guild or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union to act on their behalf.

3.6

Where a complaint concerns more than one area/Service of the University, a lead investigating officer will be appointed who will have oversight of the entirety of the complaint. 

4

Complaints made by students against other student members of the University community

4.1

The University will to be satisfied that a complaint of this nature is injurious to maintaining good order within our community and is not a case of individuals navigating challenging interpersonal relations. Complaints made by students against other student member(s) of the University community are considered for investigation under the disciplinary procedures. Complainants must note that, as described in the Disciplinary Procedure - Non academic Misconduct 'the intention will be to focus on a corrective response rather than one which is solely punitive'.

4.2

On receipt of a complaint made by a student against another student member(s) of the University community, consideration will be given to remedies outside of the complaints procedure that may achieve the effect of 'maintaining good order within our academic community'. This could include, but is not limited to, for example:

 

- conflict resolution or mediation
- offers of alternative accommodation
- offers an alternative seminar group

4.3

In considering the grounds of a complaint made by a student against another student member(s) of the University community, consideration will be given to the complainant's acceptance of alternative remedies (such as those described in 4.2); whether the complainant's desired outcome could be deemed to be frivolous, malicious or vexatious (as described in 2.13); whether the desired outcome is necessary to 'maintaining good order within our community' (as described in 4.1); whether there is insufficient evidence of a breach of the University's Disciplinary Procedure (as per section 4.6 of the Disciplinary Procedure).

4.4

Students who wish to bring a complaint against another student member(s) of the University community are advised that University investigations cannot take the place of a police investigation, and without charges being brought as an outcome of a police investigation it may be difficult for the University to apply a disciplinary penalty depending on the evidence available to it.

4.5

Students who wish to bring a complaint against another student member(s) of the University community are advised that they may find themselves subject to counter-complaints.

4.6

Students who bring a complaint against another student member(s) of the University community will be informed whether their complaint has been upheld or not and whether action has been taken under the Disciplinary Procedures. 

4.7

If a complaint has been upheld, and disciplinary action taken, due to rights of privacy under data protection legislation, there is no automatic entitlement to be told what action was taken under the Disciplinary Procedures. 

 

In determining whether or not an exceptional circumstance existed in which the complainant could be informed of a penalty applied as a result of their complaint, the University will weigh the risk to both parties. In order for the University to share the detail of the penalty applied with the complainant, and to comply with its obligations under Data Protection legislation to fairly and lawfully protect the personal data of its students, it would be necessary for the risk to the complainant from not knowing the penalty to outweigh the risk to the accused student from sharing this information.

 

A situation where it may be deemed appropriate for a complainant to be told the penalty applied would be where, for example, a student was deemed guilty of an offence and had been cautioned against further contact with the complainant; in this situation it would likely be deemed appropriate for the complainant to know that this penalty had been applied; firstly, to reassure the complainant what the appropriate action was that had been taken to protect them from the potential distress and/or harm that may result from any further contact, and secondly, to make them aware that any further contact by the disciplined student was a breach of that student's disciplinary outcome. 

4.8

In such cases where it is deemed appropriate to inform the complainant of any penalty applied, the complainant is reminded of their obligations under this procedure and Data Protection legislation to ensure that details of the complaint remain confidential, except in relation to seeking support from relevant support services, e.g. a personal/academic tutor, University Welfare Advisor/ Students' Guild Advice Unit/Penryn Welfare team/Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union Advice unit.

4.9

We try to resolve complaints as quickly as we can. But some complaints can take several months, especially if there are many different issues, welfare needs for the parties involved, and a lot of evidence to weigh up. Each caseworker/Investigating Officer will be responsible for several cases at a time and we are not always able to provide a quick decision or immediate response. Our Student Cases team may be able to answer most general queries but sometimes a caseworker/Investigating Officer needs to consider any information we have on a case before we can respond in greater detail.

 

All cases are important to the people involved, and most students are keen for us to resolve their case as soon as we can. If you think a complaint needs to be resolved especially quickly, or before a certain date, please let us know as soon as possible and explain why. In the interests of fairness, we will only prioritise a case if there is a good reason for doing so. An example could be where a student has serious health issues. 

 

Where a complaint has been brought against a student member of the University, which suggest that there may be risk of harm to self or others, precautionary action under relevant procedures (e.g. Disciplinary procedures or Health, Wellbeing and Support for Study) will be considered in the first instance. Where precautionary action is imposed, an investigation will normally follow after the precautionary action has been taken.

5

Before you complain

5.1

Before initiating a complaint, you may wish to take advice. Amongst those who may be able to help are the following:

  • In Exeter: The Students’ Guild Advice Unit contact: advice@exeterguild.com
  • In Cornwall: Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union contact 01326-255861 or advice@thesu.org.uk 
  • The University Student Cases Office contact: 01392-723329 or studentcases@exeter.ac.uk
  • A member of staff who is acting as your personal or pastoral tutor
  • The Wellbeing Service, or the Education Support Advisors for Welfare
  • The appropriate Student/Staff Liaison Committee, Postgraduate Research Liaison Forum, or other relevant student forum
  • The person nominated to deal with Complaints in the service complained about (please see the relevant webpage for the service concerned).
  • In cases of alleged bullying or harassment, you should also seek the advice of a Dignity and Respect Adviser - seehttp://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/equality/dignity/advisors/ 
  • Dispute resolution
  • In addition to the above, if you are a PGR student you may also seek advice from your supervisor or PGR Pastoral Tutor

6

How to complain

6.1

There is one informal stage and two formal stages to the Complaints Procedure. In summary, they are:-

 

(a) The Informal Stage

 

At this stage you should raise the issue with the person most directly responsible, with the aim of resolving it as soon as possible. Exceptionally if you feel unable to raise the matter yourself, the Students’ Guild Advice Unit in Exeter, or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union in Cornwall, with your consent, will be willing to help you unless there is a conflict of interest. It is expected that both sides will make a genuine and reasonable attempt to resolve any issues at this stage.  In cases of alleged bullying and harassment, you should first seek advice of a Dignity and Respect advisor - see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/equality/dignity/advisors/ . Where your complaint is about a member of staff and you do not feel you can raise this with them directly you should aim to raise this with another staff member of the relevant College/Service area e.g. personal tutor, Director of Education, Programme Director, or a Professional Services staff member in the relevant area. Before doing so you should seek advice from the Students' Guild Advice Unit, or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union in Cornwall.

 

(b) Formal Stage 

 

If you have been unable to resolve your complaint informally, you should put your complaint in writing, addressed as appropriate to the relevant Head of Service or College Pro-Vice Chancellor (or their nominated representative), stating with whom you attempted to raise the matter informally, the outcome of this, and why you remain dissatisfied.

 

(c) Review Stage 

 

If your formal complaint, or a report made to the University under the Sexual Misconduct procedure, has not been resolved in a way that is satisfactory to you, you should refer your complaint to the University centrally through the University Student Cases Office via studentcases@exeter.ac.uk 

 

You may also use this stage of the Complaints Procedure if you have made a complaint using the Students' Guild or Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union's Complaints Procedures. Once you have exhausted their Complaints Procedure, you may ask the University to review your complaint. This should be done via the University Student Cases Office (see contact details above).

 

At each stage your complaint should indicate what resolution you are seeking, without prejudice to any final remedy. You are reminded that an informal resolution to your complaint remains possible at any stage.

7

The Procedure

7.1.1

The Informal Stage

 

Any complaint should normally be raised directly with the person(s) concerned or responsible for the relevant College or Service as soon as possible following the experience that gave rise to the complaint. A complaint that is raised more than 30 calendar days after the incident will be difficult to follow up and will not normally be accepted, other than where you can show good cause for the delay (such as due to independently certified medical reasons, or other extenuating circumstances).

7.1.2

You should try to arrange a meeting with the relevant person(s). You may wish to be accompanied by a friend, supporter or a member of the Students' Guild Advice Unit or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union. At the meeting you should state the nature of your complaint and the remedy you are seeking. It may help to put your thoughts in writing and to take notes during the meeting. If a meeting is not possible or appropriate, you should email the relevant person(s).

7.1.3

Normally within 5 working days following the meeting or your email, the person(s) will either:

 

- email you (or your spokesperson, in the case of a group complaint) with a summary of what was discussed if a meeting was held, or address the points you have raised if by email, what (if any) remedy is proposed and the timescale for its implementation;

 

or

 

- respond to propose a timescale for resolution.

 

Unless agreed otherwise with you, this timescale should be no longer than 10 working days from the date of the email. If you have not received an email within 5 working days of the meeting, you should email them yourself using your own notes of the discussion and setting a deadline of 10 workings days from your email to provide a remedy to your complaint.

7.1.4

Exceptionally, where you feel unable to approach the person(s) concerned, you may ask the Students' Guild Advice Unit or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union to submit your complaint and act as a spokesperson on your behalf.

7.1.5

Where you have been unable to arrange a meeting within a reasonable amount of time (5 working days would be normal) of contacting the person(s) concerned, or no acceptable resolution has been received within 15 working days following a meeting (unless you have agreed otherwise), you should email the person(s) advising them you will be making a formal complaint.

7.1.6

The informal stage ends when one of the following applies:

  • A remedy that is acceptable to you has been put forward and you consider the matter resolved.
  • You are not satisfied with the remedy that has been proposed within 15 working days (or whatever longer period was agreed) of your informal meeting with the person(s) to whom you complained.
  • You have been unable to arrange a meeting with the person(s) concerned within 5 working days of your contacting them or you have not received a response to your initial email. 

7.2

Formal Stage 

7.2.1

In order for the complaint to be considered formally, you must put the complaint in writing on the Complaint Form - Formal Stage and send it to the person nominated by the College or Service to deal with complaints. In Colleges this will usually be the Education Business Partner (via the relevant College Cases Team email address) for PGR students it should be submitted to pgr-student-cases@exeter.ac.uk. For Services, the most appropriate person can be found on the relevant area of the website. Your details, the details of the complaint, the remedy sought and any supporting evidence should be included. You should also explain how you have attempted to raise the matter informally and why you remain dissatisfied. You should attach an e-mail or other written confirmation to the form to show that the matter has been raised informally. Unless you can demonstrate that you have been unable to receive an informal resolution of your complaint, you may be asked to return the informal stage before a formal complaint can be considered. 

If your complaint related to the behaviour of another University community member, your complaint should be submitted to the University Cases team via studentcases@exeter.ac.uk

7.2.2

A formal complaint must be submitted to the College Pro-Vice Chancellor, Head of Service or their nominee no later than 10 working days after the email concluding the informal stage as described in 7.1.5.

7.2.3

You should expect to receive an acknowledgment from the College or Service concerned within 5 working days of your formal complaint being received.

7.2.4

We aim to resolve a formal complaint, which has previously been raised informally, within 30 calendar days of receipt. If there is likely to be a delay you will be informed of this and the reasons for it. If a complaint is highly complex it might take us longer to complete than normal. A complaint might be highly complex because there are several parts to it, there is a large amount of documentation, there are a number of parties to speak with, or it is linked to another case and has to be put on hold to wait the other case's outcome. If this happens we will let you know that it may take more time that we would normally aim for to complete.

7.2.5

You, or the spokesperson if a group complaint, will be offered a personal meeting with the College Pro-Vice Chancellor (see 2.1 above), Head of Service, or relevant nominee in order that you can explain your complaint and why you remain dissatisfied. At that meeting, which may include a member of academic or professional services staff, an administrator may be present to take notes. You will be given a copy of these notes for your records. You may be accompanied to this meeting by another student, or a member of staff from the Students' Guild Advice Unit or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union, who is acting as your supporter but you should inform the College that you wish to be accompanied and give them the name of your supporter.

Your supporter is there to provide moral support, to support you in your preparation for the meeting, and to support you with asking and answering questions during the meeting. You are expected to speak on your own behalf, there is no automatic right for your supporter to speak on your behalf and it is at the College Pro-Vice Chancellor, Head of Service, or relevant nominee's discretion as to whether your supporter is permitted to address the meeting. Should your supporter act outside those actions described the College Pro-Vice Chancellor, Head of Service, or relevant nominee will suspend the meeting and ask your supporter to leave. In the event that you are unable to continue the meeting without your supporter, the meeting will continue in your absence based on the documentation provided and any verbal representations received up to that point.

7.2.6

In order to ensure that any investigation into your complaint is free from any reasonable perception of bias, no one who has had substantive involvement in the matters under investigation may be involved in decisions taken as a result of your formal complaint. Furthermore, where complaints involve allegations against more than one College or Service area, a lead investigating officer will be appointed to undertake an investigation into the matters raised. The University Student Cases team will advise how a complaint should be taken forward where a College or Service Area cannot appoint an investigating officer who has had no substantive involvement in the matters raised and/or where concerns relate to matters involving more than one College or Service Area.

 7.2.7

The College Pro-Vice Chancellor, Head of Service, or nominee may undertake whatever investigation is considered appropriate in order to establish the facts of the case and, if meetings are held with members of staff, you are entitled to a record of the discussion(s). Such records may take the form of the outcome letter. All evidence considered as part of the complaint, including email correspondence, will be shared with all relevant parties. It should be noted that if an external investigation is subsequently made into your complaint, for example by the OIA, all records, emails and reports linked to the complaint will be made available to them in accordance with data protection legislation.

Complaints against the conduct of a student(s)

If your complaint is against another student(s), an investigating officer (IO) will be designated as Authorised University Officer under the University Procedure, Section 6. The IO will seek to gather evidence as to whether or not a breach of the Disciplinary Procedures has occurred. At the start of the process, you and any relevant witnesses will be required to attend an investigative meeting with the IO. If you are unwilling for the accused party to be informed of the allegation against them, an investigation cannot proceed. A written record of your meeting will be kept and shared with you, and you will be asked to confirm whether it is an accurate summary of the discussion. Your witnesses will also receive a copy of their meeting(s) with the IO and they will be asked to confirm that the record is an accurate summary of the discussion. You, and any witnesses, may be accompanied to such meetings by a supporter. Following the meetings with your and any witnesses, an accused party will receive written notification of the allegation(s) made against them and will be invited to a meeting the IO. The meeting will be held in accordance with Section 6 of the Disciplinary procedure. The accused party will be given a full and fair opportunity to explain or present their version of events in response to the allegations. The accused party may also be accompanied by a supporter.

The IO may either:

  • decide, in accordance with Section4.6 of the Disciplinary Procedure, that no further action is required (for example, because there is no evidence that the Reported Incident took place). In such an instance the case will be dismissed and no disciplinary action will be taken; or
  • decide that further action is required, as explained in either Section 7.1 of the Disciplinary Procedure (Minor Offences) or Section 9.1 of the Disciplinary Procedure (Major Offences).

Complaints against the conduct of staff

If the complaint is about a member of staff, they will be entitled to see all the relevant documentation, including the notes of your meeting with the Investigative Officer. The HR Casework Manager may commission and investigation under the appropriate HR Procedure. The Investigating Officer will prepare a report into their investigation. Due to issues of confidentiality you will not be entitled to a copy of this report, You will, however, be informed if the report, including copies of your complaint, notes of the meeting and any statement you provide, are to be used as the basis for any HR Procedure to be carried out.

7.2.8

You will receive a written decision which addresses the points you have made and gives reasons for the conclusion reached (which may include a summary of any investigation report). The letter will also advise you of your right to refer the matter to the Review Stage of the complaint process.

7.2.9

Where recommendations are made as a consequence of your complaint, you may be entitled to know what these may be and when they will be implemented.

7.3

Review Stage 

7.3.1

If your complaint is not resolved at the Formal stage, you may refer it to the University centrally via the University Student Cases Office at studentcases@exeter.ac.uk within 10 working days of the date of the final response letter from the College Pro-Vice Chancellor or Head of Service (or nominee) under Section 7.2.7. 

 

You may also use this stage of the Procedure if you have made a report under the Sexual Misconduct Procedure and have received the Formal outcome which you wish the University to review; you must submit your request for Review via studentcases@exeter.ac.uk within 20 working days of receiving the outcome.

 

If you have submitted a complaint through the Students' Guild or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union and you wish to request a review of your case, you must submit your request for review via studentcases@exeter.ac.uk within 10 working days of completion of the final stage of their procedures.

Much like the University of Exeter, both the Students' Guild and the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union have a three stage procedure for the handling of complaints, consisting of an Informal Stage, a Formal Stage and then a Review Stage - it is only once you have exhausted the internal procedures of either the Students' Guild and the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union that you may request the University of Exeter reviews the handling of your complaint during the internal procedures of the Students' Guild and the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union.

Full details of the Students' Guild's complaint procedure can be found here, and those of the Complaints Procedure for the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Unio can be found here.

   For your request for a review to be accepted you will need to demonstrate one or more of the following grounds and provide supporting evidence:
 

(a) That new and relevant information is available that for good and independently verifiable reasons was not available at the Formal stage and now ought to be considered.

 

(b) That at the Formal stage the College or Service failed to follow the University's procedures.

 

(c) That the conduct of the investigation into your complaint was subject to bias and/or prejudice against you.

 

(d) The decision reached at the Formal stage is one at which no reasonable body (properly directing itself, and taking into account all relevant factors) could have arrived at.

 

If you are asking for a review of either a Formal complaint, the outcome of a report under the Sexual Misconduct procedure or an outcome of a Students' Guild or Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union complaint, you should send copies of all relevant documentation with the Complaint Form - Request for Review

7.3.2

The University aims to complete the Review Stage within 60 calendar days of receipt of the complaint at this stage. If there is likely to be a delay we will inform you of the reasons.

7.3.3

The University Cases Office will obtain a copy of the full file for the Formal complaint, sexual misconduct investigation, or a complaint considered by the Students' Guild or Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union (as relevant) and will identify a senior member of the University who has not previously been involved in the case to consider the paperwork. The senior member of the University will consider the case, along with a member of the University Student Cases team. Together they will decide whether the complaint should be rejected or whether there are reasons why it should be:

- referred back to the previous stage, for further consideration, or
- heard by a Complaints Committee

 

If the complaint is rejected at the Review stage you will be sent a letter explaining the reasons for the decision. This will complete the University’s internal procedures and the letter will also be a formal Completion of Procedures letter which will set out your right to refer the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education if the matter qualifies under its rules.

7.3.4

If a Complaints Committee is convened, it will be chaired by the senior member of the University (referred to above). The Committee will be a (non-standing) committee of Senate and will include a member of Senate and a full time sabbatical executive officer of the Students' Guild or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union, such as the President of the Guild or SU. No member of staff involved in the Committee may have been associated with the matters that led to the complaint or been involved within an earlier stage of the process.

7.3.5

A member of the University Cases team will prepare the documentation for the Complaints Committee meeting which will consist of all paperwork relevant to the complaint case. You may submit further documents for consideration only if there are good reasons why they were not submitted earlier. The amount of paperwork submitted must be proportionate.

7.3.6

The file of documents to be considered by the Committee will be sent to you at least 5 working days before the Committee is due to meet.

7.3.7

You, or the spokesperson if a group complaint, will be invited to attend the Complaints Committee meeting (see Section 8.2 - 8.5 below). Either party, may call witnesses. If any witnesses are to attend the meeting they will be asked to submit a written statement at least 10 working days prior to the meeting. These statements will be circulated to all parties as part of the file of documents to be considered. It will be the responsibility of the person calling any witness to ensure the statement is supplied in time to be included in the file.

7.3.8

The Chair of the Complaints Committee may, for good reason, refuse to allow a particular witness to be called.

8

Complaints Committee protocol

8.1

Where a Complaints Committee is convened, it may review any relevant evidence as well as the way in which the complaint has been handled. It cannot act as a disciplinary body.

8.2

You will be entitled to attend the Committee meeting and may be accompanied by a friend, or other supporter who would usually be a member of the University or the Students' Guild Advice Unit, or the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union. Your supporter is there to provide moral support, to support you in your preparation for the meeting, and to support you with asking and answering questions during the meeting. You are expected to speak on your own behalf, there is no automatic right for your supporter to speak on your behalf and it is at the Chair's discretion as to whether your supporter is permitted to address the Committee. Should your supporter act outside those actions described the Chair will suspend the meeting and ask your supporter to leave; in the event that you are unable to continue the meeting without your supporter the meeting will continue in your absence based on the documentation provided and any verbal representations received up to that point.

8.3

A representative party about whom the complaint pertains will also be asked to attend the meeting to give testimony to the Committee about the case at the earlier stage. This would normally be, as relevant to the case,

  • the Pro-Vice Chancellor/Head of Service (or nominee), or
  • the Investigating Officer or Chair of a Student Major Disciplinary Board (or nominee) in respect of the review of a complaint of sexual misconduct against a student member of our community, or
  • a representative of the Students' Guild of the Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union where the University is reviewing a complaint taken through the relevant body.

8.4

You and the representative (referred to in Section 8.3 above) will be invited to join the meeting. You will first be invited to present your statement about the case. The Committee will then question you about your case. The representative will then be invited to present a statement regarding the case at the earlier stage. The Committee will then question the representative about the case. Any other relevant parties who have been called to attend the Committee (e.g. any witnesses called by the College or Service or yourself) will then be invited to give their testimony and answer questions put to them by the Committee.

8.5

Once all questions have been asked and answered, the Committee will invite the representative to make any closing representations. 

8.6

You will then be invited to make any closing representations of your own. You and the representative will leave the meeting. 

8.7

The Committee will then retire to consider its decision. You will receive a summary outcome of the Committee's decision within 5 working days of the meeting, with a full report and a Completion of Procedures letter to follow. The Completion of Procedures letter will explain that the case has exhausted the University's internal procedures and will explain the student's right to request a review of their case with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. for Higher Education. 

8.8

If you remain unhappy with the outcome you may refer the complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education for consideration if the complaint  is eligible under its procedures. This must be done within twelve months of the date on which the Completion of Procedures letter was issued. Information on this process can be found at http://www.oiahe.org.uk/about-us/using-the-scheme.aspx

8.9

If you are unable to attend the Committee meeting or comply with the timescales given this will not invalidate the proceedings and the meeting may be held in your absence unless there is a valid reason for a postponement (for example illness covered by a medical certificate).

9

Timescales

9.1

The University will not normally consider a complaint which is raised more than 30 calendar days after the incident giving rise to the complaint, unless there are good and independently verifiable reasons for the delay.

9.2

In the event that you feel there are good reasons for the delay, you should explain your reasons and support this with independently verifiable evidence in writing from a relevant professional (e.g. a GP or other registered clinician).

9.3

The University aims to resolve matters as quickly as possible. The University aims to give decisions within the following timescales:-

 

(a) Informal Stage: not normally more than 15 working days of the matter being raised with the person responsible (see Section 7.1.6)

 

(b) Formal Stage: within 30 calendar days of the College or Service receiving a formal complaint (see Section 7.2.4)

 

(c) Review Stage: within 60 calendar days of receipt of the complaint at the Formal Stage (see Section 7.3.2)

 

If the matter requires further investigation and the above time scales cannot be achieved, you will be informed of the delay in writing and the reasons for it.

10

Service improvement

10.1

Where recommendations are made by a Complaints Committee for service improvement, the College or Service concerned will inform the University Student Cases Office of the steps that have been taken to remedy the situation within two months of the date of the committee report.

10.2

Each year, Colleges and Services will supply an annual report to the University Student Cases Office which will include the numbers of cases considered at the Formal Stage. The University Student Cases Office will prepare an annual report to Senate, the Faculty Boards and the University Student Exchange Group.

 [1] This procedure does not affect any individual’s statutory rights under Data Protection legislation.  Guidance about this may be found at https://www.gov.uk/data-protection/the-data-protection-act 
[
2] This includes anyone registered on a University of Exeter programme of study, including Degree Apprenticeship programmes.