The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education ("OIA") operates an independent student complaints scheme pursuant to the Higher Education Act 2004.
All higher education institutions in England and Wales are required to comply with the Rules of the scheme.
The service is free to students.
The OIA is not a regulator. The OIA handle individual complaints against higher education institutions. They may also publish recommendations about how they deal with complaints and what constitutes good practice.
Who can complain:
Anyone who was or is a registered student at a participating higher education institution can complain. Participating institutions covered by the OIA are listed here.
Complaints can be made about:
- A programme of study or research for which you were or are registered
- A service provided to you by a higher education institution
- A final decision by a higher education institutions disciplinary or appeal body
- A designated higher education institution programme validated or franchised by a higher education institution
Complaints cannot be made about:
- Relate to a matter of academic judgement;
- The matter is or has been the subject of court proceedings;
- It concerns a student employment matter;
- It relates to an institution which is not a higher education institution;
- It is about admission to a higher education institution
How do I complain
You must have first exhausted the internal complaints procedures of your university or college. The university or college should issue you with a Completion of Procedures letter. An example is show here.
When you have exhausted the internal complaints system and you are not satisfied and wish to pursue the complaint further you should complete the OIA Scheme Application Form.
This can be completed online https://www.oiahe.org.uk/form/index.asp before printing or offline.
The form should then be posted to:
The signed Scheme Application Form should reach the OIA Office within three months of the date of the Completion of Procedures letter.
How will the OIA deal with my complaint
The OIA procedures are informal. They will consider the complaint based on information provided by the parties involved. It is not like a court and it is unlikely you would need a face to face meeting or hearing.
The OIA will first ensure the complaint is something they can look at. If the complaint can be examined by the OIA they will send a copy to the higher education institution so that it can comment. This response will normally be sent to you for comments.
Sometimes the OIA will make a decision based on the information you provide without a full investigation. The OIA may need to ask you or the institution for some further information before making a decision.
The Reviewer will normally issue a draft decision so you and other parties can comment on any material inaccuracies.
Finally the Reviewer will issue a formal decision to the parties and if the complain is justified, it will usually be accompanied by the Reviewers recommendations.
What can the OIA do
Where a complaint is wholly or partly justified the Reviewer may recommend that the higher education institution does something or refrains from doing something.
Recommendations can include:
- Institution should take steps to assist the student in some way;
- The complaint is looked at afresh in the higher education institution
- The institution should change the way it handles complaints, or change its internal procedures;
- Compensation is payable
What happens after the OIA decision
Higher education institutions are expected to comply with the formal decision of the Reviewer and any recommendations in full.
The OIA consider non-compliance to be a very serious matter which will they report to their Board and publicise in their annual report.
Recommendations are not binding on the student who has complained