QAA Code of Practice Section 5: Academic Appeals and Student Complaints on Academic Matters

Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education

Section 5: Academic appeals and student complaints on academic matters - March 2000

The Code of Practice identifies a comprehensive series of system-wide expectations covering matters relating to the management of academic quality and standards in higher education. This section alongside other Codes provides an authoritative reference point for institutions as they consciously, actively and systematically assure, the academic quality and standards of their programmes, awards and qualifications.

General principles

Institutions should have effective procedures for resolving student complaints and academic appeals. Students should have a full opportunity to raise, individually or collectively, matters of proper concern to them without fear of disadvantage and in the knowledge that privacy and confidentiality will be respected.

The procedures should be ratified by the governing body or other body with ultimate corporate responsibility and should form a part of the institution's overall framework for quality assurance.

Institutions should ensure that their procedures are fair and decisions are reasonable and have regard to any applicable law.

Institutions should address student complaints and appeals in a timely manner, using simple and transparent procedures. Informal resolution should be an option at all stages of the complaints procedure which should operate, in the first instance, at the level at which the matter arose.

Information on complaints and appeals procedures should be published, accurate, complete, clearly presented, readily accessible and issued to students and staff.

Sources of impartial help, advice, guidance and support should be advertised widely within the institution.

The complaints and appeals procedures should identify the persons or bodies from whom authoritative guidance may be sought on the applicability and operation of the procedures.

Those responding to, investigating or adjudicating upon complaints or appeals must, as required by law, do so impartially, and must not act in any matter in which they have a material interest or in which any potential conflict of interest might arise.

A complainant or appellant should be entitled to be accompanied at all stages of the complaints or appeals process by a person of his or her choosing.

The documentation should indicate what further internal procedures, if any, are open to a student dissatisfied with the response to a complaint or outcome of an appeal.

Institutions should ensure that where a complaint or appeal is upheld, appropriate remedial action is implemented.

Institutions should meet reasonable and proportionate incidental expenses necessarily incurred by a successful complainant or appellant.

Institutions should have in place effective arrangements for the regular monitoring, evaluation and review of complaints and appeals.

Institutions should keep their monitoring, evaluation and review arrangements under scrutiny, taking into account current good practice.