Corporate Governance

Student Complaint Procedure

Frequently Asked Questions

 1. Q. Who can make a complaint using this procedure?

A. The Complaint Procedure is for the use of all University of Portsmouth registered students whether campus based or distance learning.  An individual is considered to be a student for three months after they have left their studies or graduated from the University.  Students studying with one of the University’s collaborative partners may use this complaint procedure about something that the collaborative partner has/has not done, once the partner’s internal procedures have been exhausted. 

The University has separate procedures for applicants and members of the public.

2. Q. What can I complain about?

A. Students may raise concerns about any aspects of their course or the services and facilities provided by the University.   The University has separate procedures for dealing with academic appeals, complaints about other students (section 3.2.1 of the Code of Student Behaviour) and issues of bullying and harassment by other students, details of which can be found on the University website.  

3. Q.  I am unhappy, or disagree, with a mark I have been given.  What should I do?

A.  All students’ work is moderated or second marked and students may not question the academic judgement of the marker(s).  If you are unhappy with a mark then you should speak to the member of staff who marked your paper so that they can provide you with feedback and explain in more depth the reasons you were given that mark.  The procedure for requesting a review of a mark can be found at section 1.4 of the regulations for academic appeals.

4. Q. I am not happy with the supervision I am receiving for my dissertation/thesis/project.  What should I do?

A. Students who experience issues with the supervision they are receiving, should raise their concerns as soon as any issues occur.  You should not wait until you have received a mark for the piece of work which is being supervised, as it will then be too late to resolve the issue(s).  If possible, in the first instance students should speak to their supervisor to discuss their concerns.  If this is not possible or students do not feel that they are able to, they should speak to their Personal Tutor, Course Leader or Head of Department. 

5. Q. What is the difference between an appeal and a complaint?

A. Appeals may be made against the decision of a Unit Assessment Board, Board of Examiners or of Extenuating Circumstances Officers.  There are a limited number of grounds on which appeals can be made.  These are outlined in the appeals section of the University Examination and Assessment Regulations which is available here.

Complaints on the other hand may be made about any aspect of a students’ course, or the services or facilities provided by the University.  The grounds for making a complaint are not as limited as those for appeals, however, you should clearly state your grounds for complaint when writing to the Complaints Team.

6. Q. Where can I get advice about making a complaint?

A. When considering whether to make a complaint, students may find it helpful to seek advice as to whether or not they have grounds for a complaint, who to approach first about a complaint and how to pursue the matter.   Advice is available from the sources of help listed here.

7. Q.  My fellow students and I are unhappy, how do we make a group complaint?

A.  A number of students with the same complaint may raise a group complaint, however, one student should act as the main point of contact for communications with the University.  That point of contact will be expected to communicate with the rest of the group involved in the complaint.

8. Q. How long do I have to make a complaint?

A.  In order to have the best chance of resolving your complaint, it must be made within 20 workings days of the event being complained about.  In most cases complaints received after this time will not be accepted unless there are mitigating circumstances for the late submission. 

9. Q. What is the first step in making a complaint?

A. Students are expected to attempt to resolve their concerns by raising them informally as soon as possible with the member of staff most directly concerned (see section 2 of the Student Complaint procedure).  If this is not possible due to the breakdown of relations between the student and the member of staff, the student should contact their Personal Tutor.  By the end of any discussions it should be understood what will be done to remedy the situation.  The University encourages the early resolution of complaints and hopes that the majority of concerns can be dealt with quickly.

10. Q.  I have tried to resolve my complaint informally with the member of staff concerned.  I am still unhappy.  What should I do now?

A.  If you have tried to resolve your complaint informally but are unhappy with the outcome of that procedure, you should submit your complaint to the University’s Complaints Team by emailing complaintsadvice@port.ac.uk , outlining the nature of your complaint, the steps that you have already taken to resolve your complaint, providing any evidence in support of your complaint and details of your preferred outcome.

11. Q.  What type of evidence should I submit with my complaint?

A.  You should submit a thorough explanation of your complaint along with copies of any emails or documents which you think are evidence of the concerns you have raised.  It is always helpful to refer to information in any policies, guidance or handbooks on which you are relying as a basis for your complaint. 

12. Q. Who will you share my complaint with?

A. In order to fully investigate your complaint it may be necessary to share your complaint and any associated documentation with the members of staff who are asked to comment on your complaint.  The Complaints team will handle your correspondence sensitively and will only disclose the information it is necessary to disclose to each member of staff as appropriate.

13. Q.  How long will it take to deal with my complaint?

A. The length of time it takes to deal with your complaint will depend on the nature of your complaint.  In cases where the complaint itself or its resolution is straightforward (see section 4.1.7 of the Student Complaint procedure), the Complaints Team will deal with your complaint within 10 working days from the date that they send you an acknowledgment.  In more complex cases, the Complaints Team may decide that your complaint needs to be considered using the University’s Formal Procedures (see section 4.1.8 of the Student Complaint procedure).  The investigation into a formal complaint may take up to 30 working days.  Within this time, all parties involved in the complaint will be invited to an interview to discuss the issues raised in the complaint.

14. Q.  If I am asked to attend a meeting, can someone accompany me?

A. Yes, you may be accompanied to any meetings held during the process of dealing with your concerns by a friend or a student representative. 

15. Q. I am distance learning student – do I have to come to the University for a meeting?

A.  No, you don’t have to come to the University.  Any discussions or interviews can take place over the telephone at a pre-arranged time.

16. Q.  Can I withdraw my complaint at any time?

A.  Yes, you may withdraw your complaint at any time during the internal procedure by giving notice to either the complaints team or to the investigating officer to whom the formal complaint was referred.

17. Q.  I am unhappy with the outcome of the formal investigation of my complaint, what should I do now?

A.  The next step in the procedure is to submit a request for a review of your complaint to be carried out by the University Secretary (see section 5 of the Student Complaint procedure).   Requests must be made in writing within 10 working days of receiving your final complaint outcome.  You must state clearly the reasons you are unhappy with the outcome.  The University Secretary will then decide whether or not you have valid grounds for a review.

18. Q.  What if I am still not happy with the outcome of my complaint?

A.  If you believe your complaint has still not been resolved properly after the University Secretary’s review, you can apply to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIAHE) for an independent review (see section 6 of the Student Complaint procedure).  The OIAHE handles individuals complaints against higher education institutions once a student has exhausted the institutions own complaints procedures.  Leaflets on the work of the OIAHE and Scheme Application forms are available on the OIAHE website at www.oiahe.org.uk .

19. Q.  I am on a placement but I have a complaint.  Who should I complain to?

A.  This may depend on the subject of your complaint.  If your complaint is about a course management issue, you should discuss this with your course leader or personal tutor as usual.

If your complaint relates to a placement issue, you should discuss it with your subject / professional / placement mentor.  Your mentor may check with the University that we are aware of the concerns and are happy with any suggested resolutions, so it may be useful to speak to your course leader as well.   It may also be helpful to have a meeting with all parties to discuss the issues and to enable a satisfactory resolution via informal routes.  If these informal discussions fail to resolve the issue, you can contact the Complaints Team for more advice, by emailing complaintsadvice@port.ac.uk.