This is guidance to the UCL Student Complaints Procedure. In this guidance we will set out how the procedure works, and what you can do if you think you have a complaint against UCL. We will also tell you about the support that is available to you.
UCL’s Student Complaints Procedure allows students to express concern or dissatisfaction with aspects of UCL or the quality of services provided.
UCL advises students to try to resolve complaints at an informal level. This may involve arranging an informal discussion with either your Personal or Course Tutor, the Departmental Tutor or Programme Leader. You can also discuss your concerns with the Student Mediator. It can be helpful to prepare a draft of your complaint before attending an informal meeting; this will help you to focus on the core issues you are raising.
An informal discussion may enable you to resolve issues, without needing to make a formal complaint.
A formal complaint can be one of two types:
- An academic complaint: Any matter affecting your academic status, such as: your progression; the results of examinations; award/degree classification; inadequate supervision; or perceived maladministration of an academic programme.
- A non-academic complaint: Any matter which (i) falls outside the definition of an academic complaint, (ii) is not covered by another UCL procedure and (iii) affects a student’s experience at UCL and requires a response.
If you are submitting a complaint, you will need to do so within two calendar months of the decision/event which you are complaining about, unless you have compelling evidence why this couldn't be done. You will need to complete a Complaints form and submit this via AskUCL with any relevant supporting documentation.
On receiving the complaint, the Student Casework Team and Chair of the Complaints Panel will decide on whether to proceed with the complaint and if a Complaints Panel will be required.
Grounds for Complaint
UCL will only consider complaints which relate to the following grounds:
1. Alleged deficiency in teaching/supervision received for some or all parts of the programme;
2. Alleged unsatisfactory delivery/administration of a programme of study, insofar as:
(a) published information about the programme was substantively misleading; or
(b) the programme was not organised or delivered in accordance with the information and documentation provided to students on the programme.
3. The results of examinations (including alleged bias in the assessment or a decision not to permit transfer (i.e. upgrade) from MPhil to PhD, insofar as:
(a) either the examination and/or classification process was not conducted in accordance with the relevant regulations/procedures;
(b) There has been an arithmetical or transcription error in the compilation of the marks and/or the result;
(c) the examiners could not reasonably have been made formally aware of special circumstances (e.g. illness) notified by the candidate which significantly affected her/his performance in the examination.
(d) there is substantive evidence that one or more of the examiners can be shown to have been biased or prejudiced against the candidate in one or more specific examinations.
4. A decision not to readmit a student to UCL or to allow a student to continue on a programme of study on the grounds of unsatisfactory academic performance, insofar as:
a) the decision rests on an examination outcome where any of the provisions set out in point 3 above apply;
b) there is evidence that performance for part or all of the programme was significantly affected by special circumstances, which have not already been considered through the Extenuating Circumstances policy or through support given under a Summary of Reasonable Adjustments (SORA).
Non-Academic Complaints may include any matter which (i) falls outside the definition of an academic complaint, (ii) is not covered by another UCL procedure and (iii) affects a student’s experience at or of UCL and requires a response.
Preparing the Complaint
UCL advises students to arrange an informal discussion before making a complaint. We suggest you prepare a first draft of the complaint before attending the informal discussion, this will help you to focus on the core issues. You could also write an informal email to the department you want to make the complaint to, explaining why you were unhappy with their service or actions.
To submit a formal complaint, you will need to complete all sections of the Complaint Form to submit your complaint. When doing this, make sure you are clear on why you are making a complaint, and what you hope the result will be. You will need to make these matters clear in your complaint, so you will need to be sure about what these are. You can talk to our Advice Service at any point during the process to get support in putting your complaint together.
The statement needs to be a clear explanation of what did or did not happen. You must clearly demonstrate how your complaint fits the grounds for making a complaint. You should bear in mind that the members of the panel considering the complaint may not be familiar with your department, and can only use the information you supply.
You should include relevant evidence to support your complaint, as it's generally up to you to prove that something did or didn't happen. The UCL Casework Team won't be able to request evidence for you.
When should you submit your Complaint?
Complaints must be submitted within two calendar months of the event giving rise to the complaint, unless you have compelling evidence why this couldn't be done.
Complaints concerning alleged deficiency in teaching/supervision and/or unsatisfactory delivery/administration of a programme of study will not be considered if received after your results have been confirmed by UCL’s Education Committee or Research Degrees Committee and published on Portico.
Complaints against unofficial results will not be considered. Formal complaints against the results of examinations can be made only when results have been confirmed by UCL’s Education Committee or Research Degrees Committee and published on Portico.
Extenuating circumstances not previously notified in accordance with UCL’s Procedure for Extenuating Circumstances in force at the time of the complaint or relevant academic year will not be considered under the Complaints Procedure.
The Complaints Process
Your complaint should be received within two calendar months of the formal date of notification of the decision, the award in question or the event about which you are complaining. If there are exceptional circumstances, such as serious medical circumstances, which prevent you from complaining within these two months these will be considered only if you provide evidence of the circumstances.
The Casework Team will acknowledge receipt of the complaint.
The Casework Team and Chair of the Complaints Panel will decide whether to proceed with the complaint within 10 working days. If it is decided not to proceed with the complaint, you will be informed in writing of the decision, giving reasons.
If it is decided to proceed with the complaint, the Casework Team will contact the relevant person or department concerned, to give them the opportunity to respond. They will be given 10 working days to send a response to the Casework Team.
The response will be sent to you, and you will be given an opportunity to comment on the factual accuracy of the response.
The Chair of the Complaints Panel will make a decision on the basis of this information whether or not a decision can be made on your complaint based on the written material provided. If a decision can be made, the Chair of the Complaints Panel will inform you in writing whether your complaint has been upheld, partially upheld, or not upheld, setting out the reasons for the decision. If a decision cannot be made a Complaints Panel will be required.
What happens at a Complaints Panel meeting?
The purpose of a panel is to review the information that has been provided and to ask you, and the person, department or service you are complaining about, questions about what has happened. All relevant documents will be sent to you and the other people involved in the complaint no later than ten days before the panel meeting. You and the member(s) of staff concerned can be present all through the hearing, except for when the Panel discusses its decision. You can be accompanied be someone, who must be a student or staff member of UCL or UCL Students’ Union.
The meeting will be recorded in writing by UCL to provide a factual record of the hearing, in case it needs to go to Review.
The Panel can adjourn for up to five working days to make a decision on the complaint. The panel will set out the decision in writing within ten working days of the final meeting of the Panel.
If a decision was made by the Chair of the Complaints Panel and you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you have the right to request a review within 10 working days of being notified of the decision. You can do this by completing a Complaint Review Form and submitting it to the Student Casework Team explaining why a review is requested as well as any evidence in support of this.
If you don't request a review, this will be noted on any Completion of Procedures letter you receive, which could affect your ability to ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator to review your complaint.
A request for a review may be made only on one or more of the following grounds:
a) procedural irregularity in the way in which the decision was reached;
b) new evidence that was not available during consideration of the complaint and where it would have been impossible for that evidence to have been made available at the time;
c) the decision was not reasonable given the circumstances of the case
The Casework Team will decide on the evidence available whether or not the review should be carried out. If it is decided not to carry out a review, you will be given a Completion of Procedures letter, including reasons for the decision.
If it is decided that there are grounds for a review, it will be sent to the Complaints Review Panel.
The Complaints Review Panel may request another response from the person, department or service being complained about, if you have submitted new evidence. A hearing may be arranged. The panel can change the original decision in any way it thinks is appropriate. You will be given a Completion of Procedures letter once the review is finished.
The Completion of Procedures letter allows you to make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, if you are still unsatisfied with how your complaint was dealt with at UCL.
Please see our information about the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.
How can the Advice Service Help Me?
Our advisors can:
- tell you more about the procedures, what to expect, and what is expected of you
- advise you about drafting your statement (but can't complete one for you), deciding on the evidence you need to collect and putting together a strong case
- accompany you to a panel meeting
- if you are not satisfied with the response from UCL, we can advise you on how you can take your complaint forward outside of the university.
UCL Student Mediator
The Student Mediator is responsible for advising and assisting UCL students with the resolution of complaints involving staff or other students or services of UCL which the student has been unable to resolve through informal means.
The Student Mediator will seek to achieve a resolution between the parties in dispute. The Student Mediator will not direct decision making but will enable both parties to put forward their views and facilitate a mutually agreed solution.
If you would like to discuss your issue with the Student Mediator, you can find contact details here.