The University has a complaint procedure that any registered students can utilise to express their dissatisfaction. The process can be used by all registered Queen's students and can be used for up to one month after graduation or receipt of final results, whichever is sooner.
Anonymous complaints will not normally be accepted. However, in some cases where the University feels that there could be a risk to students, staff or visitors or of damage to the University's reputation, they may decide to investigate.
You cannot submit a complaint regarding any of the following:
- Academic judgement
- Board of Examiners’ decisions i.e. progression, assessment, and awards.
- Degree classifications
- Examination or assignment marks
- University Committee decisions i.e. academic offences, student conduct, academic appeals.
The University will consider group complaints. The group must elect a representative or ‘Lead Student’ to act on their behalf. That student will need to provide evidence to support that they are indeed acting on behalf of a group and have consent to do so. The ‘Lead Student’ may wish to get a signed document with the names and student numbers of all students involved with their signatures to certify that they have granted permission for them to act on their behalf.
The Complaints Process
The first stage (stage one) of this process is known as the informal stage. It will involve the student(s) sending a formal written explanation of their issue to the School/Service area expressing what the concern is and why they are dissatisfied along with any impact that it has had or will have. They can do this using the stage one complaint form that can be found here.
What to include:
- An outline of the issue, when it happened/began
- Who is responsible for this issue
- How has this issue impacted you
- How has this issue impacted your work/studies
- What you are looking for as an outcome?
It is usually expected that most complaints are resolved at this level.
Once they have submitted the complaint to the School or Service the student will usually be contacted to be made aware that this is being dealt with. This should usually be within 5 working days of submission.
If the complaint concerns a particular member of staff, the student may wish to submit the written complaint to that staff member’s line manager if the student does not feel comfortable approaching that staff member directly. Alternatively, the student may wish to send this to the Head of School. They will appoint an investigating officer who will consider the complaint and conduct their investigations into the concerns raised.
Upon reaching a conclusion, the staff member dealing with the complaint should contact the student to outline what their conclusion is, any resolution they recommend and the student’s right to take the complaint to stage two if they are dissatisfied with the outcome.
Before submitting a complaint, students should consider that an academic outcome cannot normally be the result of a complaint. Therefore, if the student(s) is/are looking to challenge an academic decision, an academic appeal may be the best course of action. Having said this, the student has nothing to lose in submitting both a complaint and an appeal.
- Stage Two
If a student is dissatisfied with the outcome of a stage one complaint, they can progress their complaint to stage two. This is known as the formal stage.
IF YOU HAVE NOT SUBMITTED A STAGE ONE COMPLAINT- Before submitting a formal complaint, a student must have already submitted their concerns in writing to their School or the University service that is the subject of the complaint. The student will need to provide the School or service with the opportunity to resolve the issue themselves before being able to progress to Stage 2 – a formal complaint. If the student fails to do this, it is likely the complaint will be referred back to the School/Service for investigation.
If the Head of Academic Affairs is satisfied upon receipt of the stage 2 complaint, that the student has attempted to resolve the complaint with the School, they will send an acknowledgement (usually within 5 working days) and refer the complaint to the relevant Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor. They will then appoint an Investigating Officer who will consider the information that has been provided. They may also request a meeting with the student and any other relevant parties to establish facts.
The investigation will normally be completed within 15 working days of the Investigating Officer being appointed. The investigation report will then be sent to the Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor or Director who will communicate the outcome to the student within eight working days. With this in mind, we would expect the stage two complaint process to take several weeks.
When submitting the complaint, the student will need to send it to the Head of Academic Affairs. The Student must complete the complaint form found here and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. When completing the complaints form you will need to outline the following:
- The issue or event that you are dissatisfied with
- Why you are dissatisfied with the stage one complaint outcome
- The impact this has had on you and your studies
- The outcome you’re looking for
The outcomes of the complaint can be one of the following:
- Uphold the complaint in full or in part (and take action accordingly); or
- Dismiss the complaint if there is no case to answer; or
- Make any such recommendation(s) or proposed resolution as they deem fit.
SU Advice are happy to review the complaint form and any accompanying documents to provide comments and feedback before it is submitted.
- Stage Three
Appealing the decision of stage two of the Complaint Procedure is known as stage three. There are two grounds under which a student may submit the appeal under stage three, these are:
- Procedural irregularity in the conduct of the investigation
- New evidence that is available which was not reasonably available at the time the stage two outcome was determined.
If you wish to follow stage three of the complaint procedure, you will need to put this appeal in writing and submit it to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs. You will need to complete the correct stage three complaint form and submit this to email@example.com. This should be submitted within 10 working days of the stage two outcome.
You can find a copy of the form here.
You should also include any correspondence such as the outcome from stage two and the Investigating Officer’s report.
The Director of Academic and Student Affairs will decide whether the appeal meets one or both of the grounds stated above and can then either:
- Dismiss the appeal
- Uphold the appeal based on the written evidence presented
- Refer the appeal to an Appeal panel.
If referred to an Appeal Panel a hearing will normally take place 25 working days after receipt of the appeal. You will be asked to attend the hearing. If you fail to attend, it will be held in your absence. The panel can choose to either uphold the appeal, dismiss the appeal or make any such recommendation(s) or proposals for resolutions they feel appropriate.
Once a decision has been reached, you will be notified in writing within eight working days.
SU Advice is happy to read through any form before it is submitted and will provide information and guidance.
If you would like any advice or guidance on this process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Should you get to the end of the complaint process and remain dissatisfied or your complaint be rejected by either the Sifting or Review Panels, then your only option will be to submit a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman (NIPSO). You would need to submit a complaint to them on the basis of maladministration and provide evidence that the University did not follow its only procedures correctly.
Complaints to NIPSO must be made within six months of the date you received your final outcome letter. Complaints submitted outside of this time are likely to be rejected.