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University - Complaints

Students spend significant sums of money time and effort studying at University. As such, seeking assistance from a university solicitor is integral to raising a valid complaint and increasing your chance of a successful outcome.


Record numbers of students in England this year have applied for a place at University this year. Higher numbers of students often leads to oversubscription. This, unfortunately, often results to students being overlooked which can be incredibly frustrating given the amount of effort that is put into obtaining a place at University.

Our university lawyers are committed to providing expert legal advice to help students achieve their potential and realise their goals. The instruction of a higher education lawyer is usually justified given the complexity of university rules/regulations and the amount of fees payable to the university. After all, if a complaint is not successful, this may result in years of expensive university fees wasted and jeopardising your potential career.


Student/University relationship

Students pay significant sums for a place at University. As such, there is a contractual relationship between a student and their University. To put it simply, students are customers and deserve appropriate support, advice and resources from their University.

Our higher education solicitors receive calls from numerous students who are not satisfied with the service they are receiving from their University. So what should you do first?

If you are in dispute with your college or university, the first step is to comply with the internal complaints procedure. Each University will have their own complaints procedure, so the deadline and process of submitting a complaint may be different at each University. Our university solicitors have experience in dealing with complaints from several universities and will be in a position to advise you on the appropriate steps to submit a complaint.


How do I make a complaint?

Each University usually has their own internal complaints procedure. Details of the procedure and the relevant Regulations are often located on their website or via Student Union services. It is integral to lodge a complaint as soon as possible as there are often tight deadlines for the submission of a complaint.

The process of raising a complaint can be complicated and may require the completion of a particular form (e.g. Stage One complaint form), may require it to be in a certain format or may require particular documentation/evidence in support of your complaint.


What can I complain about?

Examples of complaints raised by students include:

  • Failure by a University to meet their obligations
  • Inadequate supervision or tuition
  • Administration error
  • Complaints about facilities or general student experience

Please note these are purely examples and are not an exhaustive list of complaints that may be pursued. However, a complaint regarding ‘academic judgement’ is generally not an acceptable ground. Please see our previous blog for further details regarding academic judgement. Our university solicitors will be able to advise you whether you have grounds to submit a valid complaint.

Students often require assistance with the complaints process as the rules and regulations can be complex. If advice is not sought, there is always the risk that the complaint may be out of time or does not satisfy the required grounds for a valid complaint.


Complaint to OIA

What do you have to do before making a potential complaint to the Office of Independent Adjudicator (OIA)? The OIA will require you to exhaust the University’s own internal complaints/appeals procedure before submitting a complaint to the OIA. A student will need to be in receipt of a ‘Completion of Procedures’ letter from their University before submitting a complaint to the OIA.

Our higher education specialists can advise and assist students in making a complaint the OIA as this is significantly cheaper than seeking recourse from the Court in the first instance.


Why instruct a higher education solicitor?

Our higher education lawyers often receive calls from students who have already made a complaint which was unsuccessful. For instance, some students explain that the grounds of complaint they submitted were not valid in accordance with the University’s own regulations.

Students are often informed by their University that they do not need to instruct a higher education solicitor. However, higher education law can be a complicated process involving detailed and complex rules/regulations. Our university solicitors understand the time, effort and money that are incurred by students during their studies and the importance of raising a valid and robust complaint.

Although there is usually remit to appeal a decision, the grounds of appeal are often very limited. It is therefore important to bring a successful and valid complaint in the first instance.

Our university lawyers will advise on whether you have grounds to raise a valid complaint with a University and will help you draft and submit the complaint on your behalf. We have experience in drafting complaints and know how to achieve the best possible prospects of success.

As there is a contractual relationship between a student and the University, our higher education law solicitors can also consider and advise whether there is any remit for financial compensation. HCB Solicitors employ solicitors who have years of civil litigation experience who also specialise in higher education law. It is therefore very important to consider whether there is any potential recourse to financial compensation as there deadlines for bringing such claims with the Court.


Other services

Exhausting the University’s internal complaints procedure with the assistance of our specialist lawyers often is the most cost and time efficient way in resolving any issues with a University.

In addition to assisting with complaints, our university solicitors can assist with:

  • Academic Appeals;
  • Fitness to Practice;
  • PhD Appeals (including cases of inadequate supervision or resources);
  • Exclusions;
  • Litigation – breach of contract and/or discrimination claims;
  • Discrimination claims;
  • Complaints to the OIA.

If you would like to discuss your university law dispute in more detail, please contact us on 0333 202 7175.


“Very good agency. I had a problem with my university and the solicitor Rhys Palmer helped me through the process very seriously and pragmatically. Thanks a lot to the agency.”