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Applicant complaints policy and procedure

General principles

At the University of Exeter we are committed to the provision of high quality, fair and transparent admissions procedures. If you have cause for concern about the way your application has been handled, you can use these procedures to inform us of your concerns*.

A complaint is defined as an expression of a particular concern about a procedural error, irregularity or maladministration in the admissions procedures or policies and can be lodged at any stage of recruitment, selection and admission. It may concern actions or inaction by the University or its staff.

In Admissions we recognise that complaints may provide useful information from applicants and, where appropriate, will be used to improve the admissions service.

The University ensures that staff involved with complaints are professional and receive appropriate training and development in admissions and related areas.

*Our procedures do not apply if your programme of study is offered at a Partner Institution or if your programme is wholly delivered by a partner FE or HE Institution, except where selection for the full programme is the responsibility of the University of Exeter.

  1. Applicants have no right of appeal against a decision not to offer them a place at the University on academic grounds. Due to the level of competition particularly for selective programmes of study, there will inevitably be occasions when an applicant is disappointed with a selection decision. Providing that the decision can be shown to have been reached fairly and in accordance with the University’s published selection criteria, the original decision will not be overturned.
  2. Complaints may be made by individual applicants or by groups of applicants. They may only be made by a representative, a parent, a school/college or any other third party if the admissions team has received the appropriate notification from the applicant (see the procedures for discussing your application with others).
  3. The complaints procedures set out how applicants may seek to have complaints addressed. It should be recognised that the vast majority of applicant complaints can be handled fairly, amicably, and to the satisfaction of all concerned without recourse to the formal complaints procedure.
  4. In the first instance, applicants with a complaint should contact the Admissions Office with details of their grievance.
  5. If the informal course of action proves unsatisfactory, then the formal complaints procedure should be followed.
  6. It is recognised however that there may be occasions where applicants may consider that an informal complaint is not appropriate and wish to proceed to the formal stage in the procedure, giving reasons for doing so. In such situations, Admissions, taking into account the particular nature and circumstances of the complaint, will consider whether an attempt to resolve the complaint informally is appropriate or allow the complaint to be investigated formally.
  7. The University seeks for the early and/or informal resolution of complaints and will ensure that all complaints are treated seriously and constructively. It will also ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly, with fairness and consistency wherever possible. If a complaint is upheld, the University will take such action or provide such remedy as may be appropriate and will do so promptly. If a complaint is not upheld, the reasons for the decision will be communicated to the applicant.
  8. There will be no discrimination against any applicant who makes a complaint; this will not affect an application or future application.
  9. Applicants lodging a complaint and those against whom complaints are made may expect complaints to be dealt with confidentially and with respect for their privacy. However, it may be necessary to disclose information to others in order to deal with the complaint and in these circumstances the parties concerned will be informed of such disclosure.
  10. Anonymous complaints or evidence will not be considered.
  11. The Complaints Procedure provides for both informal and formal stages in the handling of a complaint. At each stage of the process, the person to whom the complaint has been referred shall, if it is upheld apply such remedies as are within their powers. If they consider that the remedy is outside their power, they shall refer the matter to the appropriate authority. If they feel unable to fulfil the requirements of the Complaints Procedure objectively because of prior involvement in the case, they will refer the matter to a senior colleague.
  12. The Head of Admissions will undertake a service improvement review and monitor, on an annual basis, formal complaints which have been referred, and will be responsible for implementing any changes to systems or procedures suggested by the nature and pattern of the complaints received.

Stage one: informal complaint

  1. Applicants should first raise their complaint with the Admissions Office in writing outlining the nature and details of the complaint and what outcome is being sought.
  2. The complaint must normally be made within 10 working days of the actions (or lack of actions) that prompted the complaint. The complainant will be contacted within ten working days and a record and any action taken as a result will be retained. If it proves impossible to respond fully within ten working days, the complainant shall be informed of the timescale for the receipt of a full response.
  3. If the complaint is about non-selection, please refer to the Feedback Policy.

Stage two: formal complaint

  1. If you are dissatisfied with the response you receive from Admissions regarding the informal complaint (Stage one) you should submit a formal written complaint to the Head of Admissions on the  the Stage 2 Complaint Form which needs to be emailed to within 10 working days of receiving the response.
  2. The written complaint should set out briefly: the nature of the complaint; any informal steps already taken; details of any response received; and your explanation should include a specific date, a named member of staff to whom the complaint was reported and a statement as to why you remain dissatisfied.
  3. The Head of Admissions will investigate the complaint and respond to the complainant within 10 working days of the receipt of the complaint. If it should prove impossible to respond fully within 10 working days, the complainant will be informed in writing of the timescale for the receipt of a full response.

Stage three: review request

  1. You have the right to appeal and this should be submitted in writing to the Assistant Director (Student Access, Recruitment & Admissions) within 10 working days of the outcome of the Stage 2 complaint.
  2. The written request for a review of the Stage two decision should set out any additional information, if applicable.
  3. The Assistant Director (Student Access, Recruitment & Admissions) will respond within 10 working days of the receipt of the appeal
  4. The decision reached by the Assistant Director (Student Access, Recruitment & Admissions) is final and there is no further right of appeal.