Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education Guidance in Making Complaints

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) is an independent body set up to review student complaints on a range of issues. We encourage people who have made a complaint to their university regarding any form of staff sexual misconduct to consider contacting the OIA if they feel this complaint has been unreasonably delayed, or dealt with inadequately. While the OIA focuses on student complaints, complaints brought by former students can be considered if the misconduct occurred whilst the complainant was a student and complained to the university at the time.

The OIA usually requires an end-of-process letter, provided by the higher education provider on completion of procedures, stating that the higher education provider has finished investigating the complaint (irrespective of the outcome of that investigation). However, in exceptional circumstances and if there is good reason, they can take on a case without one.

We strongly encourage students who are struggling with the complaints process at their university to contact the OIA.

You can phone the Casework Support Team at the OIA for an initial discussion on 0118 959 9813 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or send a query via their website.

You need to submit your complaint to the OIA within 12 months of the end of the complaints process at your university, but the sooner the better. If the complaints process is yet to be completed, you can contact the OIA at any point where you feel the process has been unnecessarily delayed, or if the process is having an adverse impact on your mental health. It will be helpful if you can provide evidence of either of these issues if possible.

See the OIAHE website for guidance on how to make a complaint:

  • What if I have not received a completion of processes letter from my university?

If you can show that the ongoing complaints process is having a detrimental effect on you, the OIA may be able to take on your case without a completion of processes letter. This will be assisted by any records that you have, such as doctor’s notes or correspondence with the university. Therefore we encourage anyone who is bringing a complaint to their university to keep detailed records, and to insist on timelines for the investigation and process being clearly articulated and met. It is within your rights to request a written summary of any face to face meeting that you attend at the university, and to agree to the contents of that summary.

The OIA may also be able to encourage your university to speed up the complaints process, if this is the issue.

See regulations from the OIAHE website:

“The OIA’s regulations state that it is able to accept a complaint where a completion of procedures letter has not been issued when:

  • There has been undue delay on the part of the university in progressing the complaint, and there appears to be no prospect for early resolution;
  • The university has unreasonably refused to issue a COP Letter;
  • The student has failed to escalate the complaint or appeal in time and the university has issued a COP Letter saying that they are now out of time to do so. In those circumstances we would consider whether the university has acted reasonably in deciding that the student is out of time;
  • The student raises issues in their Complaint Form to the OIA which were not covered by the COP Letter and we consider that it would be expedient to deal with those secondary issues at the same time as the primary issues raised with the university”

See further information from the OIA about the completion of processes letter.