How to complain and get compensation from your university

How to complain and get compensation from your university

How to complain and get compensation from your university

Feel like your university has given you a bad deal? In this guide, you’ll find the knowledge, tools, and courage to complain about poor service and receive compensation.

The number of students making complaints to their university is on the rise. In 2021, the ombudsman OIA (more info on them here) received 2,763 complaints. This was their highest ever number.

So, do you think you’ve got a legitimate grievance with your uni? Follow our steps to submit a complaint and you could receive hundreds in compensation.

How to make a complaint to your university

1. Try to come to an informal solution

Making an official complaint to your university can be a long and stressful process. If possible, you should look into resolving it informally first. Try speaking to your personal tutor. They might be able to act on your behalf and resolve the situation for you. This will be much quicker and easier than putting together a formal case and letter. Your university will probably expect you to try this before submitting an official complaint.

2. Read up on your university’s complaints policy

Every university has a different way of dealing with student appeals and complaints. The first thing is to read through your own uni’s internal policy. You should be able to find it online pretty easily. Try Googling something like “X university complaints policy”.For example, the University of Manchester outlined its procedure in a flowchart. If you can’t find your university’s policy online, speak to student services. Note that there may be a certain time period in which you need to submit your complaint after the incident takes place. So don’t hang about!

3. Know what you’re complaining about

It’s important to have a clear idea of what your complaint concerns. This might sound obvious, but taking a bit of time to narrow down your complaint to a few brief points will work wonders. You’ll need to be specific but concise, and have good evidence to back it up. Technically, you can make a formal complaint or appeal about anything you think breaches the terms of the contract you signed up for (or your rights as a student), as long as it’s something the uni has control over. But, only go down this road if you’re 100% serious and feel that other students could benefit from changes being made. Otherwise, you’re just wasting their time and yours.

4. Marking of degree assessments.

You can’t submit a complaint related to ‘academic judgment’, like being unhappy with a grade you’ve received. Your uni should have a separate appeals procedure for this. However, you can make a complaint about poor teaching or malpractice which led to you receiving a bad mark. If you’re making a complaint about your course (or any other aspect of your university education) not being what you expected, you’ll have to show you did thorough research beforehand. This could include attending open days, asking questions, and reading the prospectus thoroughly. If you didn’t realize you’d only have four contact hours a week, it clearly states that on the website, you don’t have much chance with a complaint.

5. Know what you want from your complaint

Think about what you want to get out of this process. Do you simply want somebody to recognize that they’ve behaved irresponsibly and apologize? Or are you seeking a tuition fee discount or cash settlement? It’s important to consider this, as the process could turn out to be quite time-consuming. Put together some clear demands that you believe would compensate you fairly. If you’re asking for monetary compensation, it must be reasonable, realistic, and justifiable.

6. Collect the evidence

You’ll need to present a convincing case against the relevant parties (e.g. a tutor, department, or even the uni itself) by gathering credible evidence. This could include any emails or written communication you’ve had, photos or videos of incidents (if appropriate), or statements from witnesses or relevant professionals (e.g. your doctor). Also, read through what you signed up for. When you registered as a student, you’ll have likely signed a contract that outlines your university’s responsibilities. If they’re in breach of that, you’ve got a strong case.

7. Use your resources

You don’t have to go through the process alone. There are people whose job it is to help you out. Start with your student union. Contact student advisers, councilors, and anyone else with experience with the uni’s complaints system. Perhaps your parents might be able to help, or you know some law students who are great at presenting cases. And, of course, you’ve got the whole internet at your disposal.

8. Submit your formal complaint

Now you’ve done your homework and have all bases covered, it’s time to write up your complaint following the set procedure. Refrain from getting too personal. Try to stay calm and rational. This will work in your favor in the long run. Provide specific examples of times that you think you’ve been treated unfairly. This will allow an assessment to take place.

9. Receive a Completion of Procedures letter

As you might expect, issues can take time to be resolved. But, the university has an obligation to send you a ‘Completion of Procedures‘ (COP) letter as soon as possible. This essentially outlines the issues they’ve identified and their final decision. You should hear confirmation that they’ve received your complaint within a week. However, it may take a month or two for them to come to a decision. It’s worth knowing that some universities will try to wrangle out of this stage. This makes it difficult to take your case to an ombudsman (a person or entity who’s been appointed to look into complaints about companies and organizations) if you’re dissatisfied with the outcome. So, make sure you chase them up. This takes us to the next stage…

Many students (and graduates) feel uneasy about challenging their lecturers or their uni. But, it is your right.

Voicing valid concerns and holding the uni accountable will help to improve future students’ experiences.

Courtesy / Credit: Save the Student

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