A complaint may be defined as "an expression of dissatisfaction that needs a response". The expression of dissatisfaction may take the form of an informal, verbal complaint or a formal, written complaint.
The Complaints Procedure which is set out in the following pages should be used by anyone to pursue complaints about any service or lack of service provided by the University to which a response is expected.
We will try to resolve complaints informally and quickly between the relevant parties, and only start a formal process (i.e. letters, evidence, documentation and formal decisions etc.) if that fails. We will provide an opportunity for a review of a formal decision on the grounds of unfairness, unreasonableness, or procedural irregularity, but we will not allow complaints to be re-presented at higher levels just in order to seek a different outcome. We aim to operate a complaints system which:
· is conducted fairly and reasonably
· follows clear straightforward written procedures
· is evidence-based
· comes to a clear conclusion without unnecessary delay
· gives reasons
· provides appropriate redress
· provides an opportunity for review if the above standards have not been met
· does not risk disadvantage to the complaint maker
Complaints will be treated seriously and complainants will not suffer any disadvantage or recrimination as a result of making a complaint in good faith. Complaints should not be made frivolously, vexatiously or with malice, and we will not investigate them.
Steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of inhibition from the complainant due to a perception that they will be treated unfavourably as a consequence.
Experience has shown that formal complaints are dealt with more efficiently if the complaint, and supporting evidence, is presented in a standard format. So we will only deal with formal (i.e. written) complaints presented on the appropriate official form.
We also encourage students to seek advice from the Students' Committee at any stage in the complaints process, including advice on how to present their case effectively.
1. Who can use this procedure?
This complaints procedure applies to students, staff and other stakeholders of Amity.
Anonymous complaints will be treated individually on their merits.
2. Time limit
We will not normally deal with a complaint if the relevant circumstances took place more than 14 days before the initial complaint was made.
3. Making a Complaint
To make a complaint a complainant must start at level 1. The following sections explain what this means, and what to do if a complaint is not resolved satisfactorily.
· Level 1: Attempt an informal resolution with the person directly concerned
· Level 2: Formal written complaints to the relevant Head of Unit
· Level 3: Appealing against the decision –Review by Principal
Level 1: Attempt a resolution with the person directly concerned
We expect the complainant to try to resolve a complaint directly, informally and quickly with the person concerned .The complainant is expected to explain clearly what the problem is and what outcome they are seeking, and the member of staff is expected to listen to the complaint and to use their best endeavours to try to resolve it in a straightforward and reasonable manner. Staff dealing with complaints are encouraged, whenever practical, to meet with the complainant. Face-to-face discussions are often very helpful to establish the precise cause of dissatisfaction, to explore the remedy sought by the complainant and to foster a mutual understanding of the issues involved. If a mistake has been made an apology should be offered.
If for any reason a complainant feels uncomfortable about doing this on their own, they may be accompanied by another colleague/friend.
We expect most complaints to be resolved in this way.
Level 2: Formal written complaint and action by the Head of Unit
If however Level 1 does not provide a satisfactory outcome, the complainant should submit a written complaint on an official complaint form.
We will only deal with formal complaints presented in writing. It is acceptable to submit the complaint either in hard copy or by email.
The complaint will be forwarded to the head of relevant unit for possible investigation.
The head of relevant unit will:
· ensure they have read and understood the written complaint (which might include asking the complainant to clarify matters either in writing or by meeting with them);
· give the person complained about, or who is directly responsible for the matter being complained about, an opportunity to read the complaint and to set out their side of the story, verbally and/or in writing (if verbal, a written record must be kept);
· judge whether they have enough information on which to make a decision, and if not to acquire that additional information before making a decision;
· meet with other parties relevant to the complaint, if they feel this may assist their understanding;
· take all the evidence into account in the process of making a decision;
· handle the complaint sensitively, especially where individuals are named. Any member of staff named in a written complaint should be made aware of the complaint, and they should expect the complaint to be handled with discretion and confidentiality to be maintained;
· in making the decision, being objective (ie not assuming one side or the other is bound to be right);
· make a reasonable decision;
· set it out in writing;
· if the decision has a practical consequence, making sure that happens as intended, and in good time;
· if the complaint is rejected, explaining in writing what the reasons for rejection were;
· Make sure the review is concluded as quickly as possible and without unnecessary delay.
The written reply from the Head of Unit will follow a standard format which includes giving reasons if a complaint is not accepted.
If the Head of Unit finds in favour of the complainant, they may decide on whatever course of action they think appropriate, bearing in mind the outcome sought by the complainant.
Level 3: Review by the Principal
We expect a review by the Head of relevant Unit normally to be the end of the matter.
However if the complainant is not satisfied with the decision the Principal may be asked to review the way the Head of relevant Unit handled a complaint, but only on the grounds that they did not do so fairly and reasonably, or that the above procedure (Level 2) was not followed in some way, and that in any case this would have made a significant difference to the outcome.
The level 2 procedure sets out the standards of "fairness and reasonableness" the Head of Unit is expected to meet, and the procedure should be followed. The complainant must set out the grounds of the appeal by making reference to those standards, and must provide evidence to support their claim. An appeal without adequate grounds and evidence will be dismissed.
The Principal will only deal with appeals set out in writing. If the Principal decides that on the face of it there is no case to answer, they will write to the complainant rejecting their complaint, and giving their reasons.
If the Principal decides that on the face of it there is a case to answer, they will send a copy of the complaint to the Head of Unit, and ask them to respond to any claims of unreasonableness, unfairness, or procedural irregularity. Normally the Principal will be able to make a decision on the basis of the complaint, and the written response from the Head of Unit, but they are free to make whatever additional enquiries they think appropriate. In reaching a decision they are expected to be fair and reasonable themselves, by observing the same standards as are set out above (level 2).
If the Principal upholds the complaint, they will tell the complainant in writing, and write to the Head of Unit explaining in what way the complaint was not handled fairly and reasonably or how procedure was breached, and they will instruct Head of Unit to reconsider the complaint fairly and reasonably and according to procedure. Exceptionally, if they believe this may not be possible for some reason, they may take other reasonable steps to ensure that the complaint is dealt with fairly and reasonably and following the correct procedure.
If the Principal does not uphold the complaint, they will write to the complainant giving reasons.
The Principal may decide to uphold part but not all of the complaint, and will respond to the complainant accordingly.
There is no further internal appeal.
The Principal will make an annual report to the Executive Committee on the exercise of their powers to investigate "level 3" appeals against complaints decision, which will identify the numbers of complaints dealt with and their type and outcome, without identifying individual complainants, but highlighting in particular any issues which may indicate a general need for change or improvement.
Completion of procedures
As required by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator ('OIA'), if we are unable to resolve a complaint to the student's satisfaction, and there are no further steps available to the student, we will issue a formal "completion of procedures" letter. This provides a formal confirmation that the student has exhausted the internal complaints procedure, and is required before a complaint may be considered by the OIA.
Monitoring and Evaluating the Complaints
The Complaints Procedure is monitored for effectiveness and a record is kept of the outcome of each complaint as well as an assessment on how the process functions. The Amity Executive Team is informed regularly on complaints and the functioning of the procedure. The Annual Policy Review is used to highlight any need to modify the Complaints Procedure due to weaknesses which have been observed or internal / external changes.