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What is the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator)?

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) is an independent body that reviews individual complaints by students against higher education providers. They have no regulatory powers over the educational institutions and cannot punish or fine them. However, Universities are expected to comply with the decisions and recommendations of the OIA as failing to do so is considered bad practice.

The OIA provides an independent review scheme. In other words, it considers whether the University has correctly applied its regulations and followed its procedures and whether the outcome is reasonable under the circumstances. 

You can find more information, including case summaries and outcomes, on the OIA’s website.

What types of Complaints can the OIA look at? 

The OIA can review complaints about anything a provider has done or failed to do. This might be about:

  • A programme of study
  • A service provider by the university to a student
  • A final decision of a university’s disciplinary or appeal body

Complaints that can be looked at include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic appeals
  • Extenuating Circumstances
  • Teaching provision and facilities
  • Student Accommodation
  • Research supervision
  • Welfare
  • Discrimination - race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation or religious belief 
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Placements
  • Procedural irregularities
  • Unfair practices
  • Disciplinary matters, including plagiarism
  • Fitness to practise processes

How do I make a Complaint to the OIA?

Before you can submit a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), you must have exhausted all internal complaints and/or appeals procedures at your University. A Completion of Procedures letter will be issued once your case has been wholly dealt with, detailing the final decision made by the University. Only in exceptional circumstances will the OIA look at a complaint where the internal procedures have not been completed.

What are the time frames?

In order for the OIA to review your case, they must receive your complaint within 12 months of the date of your Completion of Procedures letter; otherwise, it will be considered out of time. Although you have 12 months, it is usually better to submit your complaint as soon as you can otherwise the remedies available may be limited.

It is worth noting that should you decide to commence any legal proceedings in the Civil Court concerning your case, the OIA are likely to stop its investigation into your matter.

What happens in the OIA Complaint process?

Once all documents have been received, the OIA will acknowledge receipt and determine whether your complaint can be reviewed under its Scheme rules. 

If your complaint is accepted following this initial stage, the case-handler might:

  • Try to settle or mediate the complaint • Ask the provider for its comments on the complaint
  • Ask the provider or you for more information
  • Issue a Complaint Outcome in respect of the complaint
  • Contact you to discuss your complaint and whether your desired outcome is achievable
  • Send you information to comment on

You will receive further information from the OIA about the review process once your complaint is received. The case-handler will normally complete their review within 90 days, although is your matter is highly complex then this may take longer.

What are the possible outcomes?

If the OIA decides that your complaint is Justified or Partly Justified, they make recommendations for the University to implement. This is likely to be one of the following:

  • Reconsider your appeal/complaint;
  • Review or change its procedures or regulations; or
  • Review or change the way appeals and/or complaints are being dealt with. 

The OIA may still make recommendations, even if a complaint is deemed Not Justified, but these may not have any impact on your University outcome. 

Can I get help with making a complaint?

If you need help or advice about making a complaint, please contact the Advice Service to make an appointment with one of our advisors. We can explain the process, support you to complete the complaint form and even act as your representative to communicate for you with the OIA.

Further Information