If you are a student or former student and want to complain about something to do with a higher education course or provider, your first step must be to work through your university or college’s own complaints procedure - you should be able to find this on their website. If not, your provider should be able to supply it on request.
The Student Support Services team and students’ union or guild in your university or college are good places to start for advice and guidance about your issue. You can find the contact details for your students’ union or guild from its website, or (in most cases) from the National Union of Students (NUS).
If you’re a member of staff with a complaint, you should follow your organisation’s grievance procedure. You could also seek advice through your trade union representative.
If you have already done this and the issue isn’t resolved, then you can raise the matter with a number of organisations that deal with complaints about higher education.
The list below will help you to select the right organisation, as the specific areas covered vary. It also depends on which nation of the UK the provider is based in.
If you have a complaint that is related to the current pandemic, then begin with the COVID-19 information and guidance published by your university or college. You may also wish to contact your Student Support Services Unit or students’ union for support.
The following organisations have published useful information for students:
- Department for Education: University students and COVID-19 FAQ and Education in the media
- Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA): Coronavirus - FAQ for students
- Office for Students (OfS): Student Guide to Coronavirus
- Universities UK: FAQs about tuition, assessments and fees during the pandemic.
QAA is not able to investigate complaints or concerns about student tuition fees.
Who else can help?
Citizens Advice can advise on breaches of consumer rights.
Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
The CMA has a guide to consumer rights for students. It is able to help you with complaints about:
• inaccurate or out-of-date public information
• failure to meet commitments set out in terms and conditions, for example, surprising changes to the course or costs
• complaint handling processes being not accessible, unclear or unfair.
Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)
Students and former students can complain to HEFCW about systematic problems about quality and standards within their institution - if it is on the HEFCW register in Wales. Individual complaints should be addressed to the OIA (see below).
Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO)
The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman offer free, independent and impartial examination of complaints about public services in Northern Ireland.
Office for Students (OFS)
Students and former students can complain to OFS about systematic problems about quality and standards within their institution - if it is on the OFS register in England. Individual complaints should be addressed to the OIA (see below).
Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)
This is an independent organisation that considers students complaints. It can accept complaints from students, or former students, of English and Welsh providers registered with them. Complaints can be about anything a provider has done or failed to do, for example, regarding a programme of study, a service, or a final decision of the provider’s disciplinary or appeal body. The OIA website includes a useful list of the issues you can and cannot complain to them about.
If you have an individual complaint or grievance, this should first be raised with the provider in Scotland through their internal complaints procedures. If the issue still isn’t resolved, then the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) may be able to help you.
QAA Scotland can investigate concerns about academic standards and quality in Scottish Higher Education institutions (HEI) raised by students, staff and other parties through our Scottish Concerns Scheme.
QAA can investigate complaints or concerns about academic standards and quality where we think these raise broader issues about the management of quality, standards and/or the information the provider makes available about their provision. We can only do this for a small group of providers in Northern Ireland and those providers in England and Wales that are not registered with the Office for Students in England or HEFCW Register in Wales. We do this through our own Concerns Scheme, which we use to investigate each concern fairly and as quickly as we can.
If you have a complaint about Access to HE, please visit our Access to HE website.
Guidance and Submission Form
To raise a concern with us, complete the following form using the guidance to help.
Is your complaint about QAA?
View our Complaints about QAA page.