Suggestions and complaints
Every attempt will be made to deal quickly and effectively with any complaints made about any matter of concern to students.
Complaints or concerns about academic or welfare matters should be addressed in the first instance to the student’s Tutor, who will consult with Directors of Studies as appropriate.
Any minor concerns of a domestic nature which relate to accommodation faults or the non-functioning of other student facilities should be reported via the Online Maintenance System. More major domestic concerns should be addressed to the Estates Director, and complaints about bills and other financial matters should be addressed directly to the Senior Bursar who can be contacted by email.
If students are not satisfied with the College response to any complaint they make then they should contact the Senior Tutor.
The suggestion and complaints procedure
The College welcomes comments and suggestions from students about its services. Students wishing to make a suggestion or comment about the College’s services, either academic or non-academic, can do so informally at the point of service delivery or by contacting the person in charge of the relevant area or, when it seems appropriate, by raising the matter with their Tutor or the Senior Tutor.
Occasionally, however, students may wish to make a complaint about the services they receive. The College anticipates that complaints will normally be dealt with informally in the first instance.
Students with a complaint should seek to bring it to the attention of the College using the procedure outlined here as soon as possible following the occurrence of a problem and ideally within one calendar month.
Many complaints can be dealt with quickly and effectively in this manner without recourse to formal procedures. The College’s procedures have been developed with this in mind.
The College will seek to provide fair and objective procedures for examining and resolving complaints and to ensure that its procedures are free from partiality arising from personal or institutional conflict of interest or other sources of bias.
No student will be disadvantaged by having raised a complaint, but the College expects that students will not make frivolous, vexatious or malicious complaints. Students who are considering making a complaint may wish to seek help or advice from the people listed below.
A student may wish to complain about a matter that is not within the control of the College, but within that of another institution, e.g. the University or another College. The University has established a student complaints procedure which covers Faculties, Departments, and other University institutions and all Colleges have formal written procedures.
If you have a complaint in this category, the first thing to do is identify the appropriate point of contact within the Faculty, Department or other College. You may either contact that person directly or ask your Director of Studies, your Tutor or the Senior Tutor to take up the matter on your behalf.
Downing College has a responsibility to help students identify mechanisms and to offer appropriate assistance in making a complaint within the University. If it is unclear to you where responsibility for the matter lies, you may seek advice from any of the persons listed below. Complaints relating to the behaviour of contractors and others working for the College should not be taken up directly with the individual concerned but should be made by the student either through a Tutor or directly to the Estates Director.
Persons from whom help may be sought for students:
- Director of Studies (in matters relating to supervision or other academic provision)
- Tutor (for any matters)
- Senior Tutor
- JCR President, Academic Affairs Officer, Welfare Officer
- MCR President, Welfare and Education Officer
- Student Advice Service
For graduate students:
- Graduate Tutor
- Secretary of the Degree Committee or other Departmental Graduate Advisor
- Student Registry (includes the Board of Graduate Studies)
- Senior Tutor
- Graduate Union
Complaints against individuals outside the College
The same individuals listed above are available to act on behalf of a student with a complaint against individuals outside the College, and will contact the relevant member of another college or within the University.
Complaints against supervisors, university assistant staff, or senior members of the University may involve the Welfare Officers and the Equal Opportunities Officer of the University.
Where a complaint includes an allegation that an offence of a criminal nature has been committed, it may be reported by the complainant to the police.
Insofar as there is no conflict of interest, the College will seek to offer advice and support in such cases, and the complainant may wish to seek legal advice.
Complaints on matters of College policy should be directed to the appropriate College committee through student representatives. These may be contacted through the JCR or the MCR.
Every attempt will be made to maintain the confidentiality of a complainant. However, where a complaint is of a personal nature against an individual, it is likely that the complainant’s identity would have to be revealed at some stage in all but the most exceptional cases in order for there to be a fair investigation.
The College will endeavour to inform an individual complainant of the extent to which their identity is likely to be revealed at each stage of the procedure.
To assist in the process of auditing the quality of its services and responsiveness to student comments, suggestions and complaints, the College will monitor complaints. The College undertakes to respect the confidentiality of complainants in this exercise.
Informal complaints procedure
Students who experience a problem with any College service or anything else within the control of the College should first raise the matter with the individual who has handled the matter.
If informal discussion does not resolve the situation satisfactorily the person responsible for the area to which the complaint relates should be approached either directly or, if preferred, through a College Tutor.
In the case of those disturbed by noise, the simplest, and often most satisfactory remedy, is to discuss the matter with the perpetrator of the noise and seek to reach agreement. In the case of an isolated incident such as noise late at night, the student can complain to the Porters who will help deal with the immediate problem. The College authorities take the problem of noise extremely seriously.
In cases where a student feels that the nature of the complaint is too serious to be dealt with informally, or where, after the relevant Head of Department has been approached, a satisfactory conclusion has not been reached, a complaint should be made in writing to the Senior Tutor.
An initial response to any complaint can be expected within seven days of its receipt, and a considered response to the complaint should be received within three weeks, with any subsequent remedy implemented with the minimum of delay.
In the case of noise, if this is persistent, the student can either complain to an Officer of the JCR or MCR who will try to resolve the problem but who may refer the matter to a Tutor or to the Dean or complain to a Tutor or to the Dean who has the power to take disciplinary action in the matter.
Formal complaints procedure
It is hoped that very few complaints will remain unresolved after this stage. However, should there be such a complaint, the complainant can request that the Senior Tutor refer the matter to the Master.
The Master will ask the College’s General Purposes Committee to appoint a Student Complaints Committee to undertake an independent assessment of the case and come to a conclusion on the matter.
The Student Complaints Committee shall consist of either three Fellows or two Fellows and one junior member of the College (who will normally be the President of the JCR or the MCR), it being up to the complainant to decide whether or not they wish there to be student representation on the Committee.
One of the Fellows appointed by the General Purposes Committee shall be the Chairman of the Student Complaints Committee. No person who has had, or may have, any personal involvement in the matter to which the complaint relates shall be a member of the Student Complaints Committee.
In the event that the President of the JCR or the MCR is debarred from acting, their place shall be taken by another junior member chosen by the College’s General Purposes Committee.
The Student Complaints Committee will receive a copy of all documentation relating to the informal stage of the complaints procedure. The Chairman will write to the complainant informing them of the composition of the Committee and the date on which it is to meet and soliciting any further submissions in writing which the complainant may wish to make.
The Chairman will at the same time write to any person or persons against whom the complaint is made, informing them of the complaint which has been made, of the composition of the Committee, the date on which it is to meet, and inviting them to make submissions in writing for the Committee to consider.
The complainant and any person or persons against whom the complaint is made shall have the right to challenge the appointment of any person as a member of the Student Complaints Committee. The College’s General Purposes Committee shall consider any such challenge and may remove and replace the member concerned if they think it appropriate to do so.
Copies of all written submissions and other paperwork relating to the complaint shall be sent both to the complainant and to any person complained against at least seven days before the meeting of the Committee.
Both the complainant and any person against whom the complaint is made shall have the right to attend in person at the meeting of the Committee in order to make oral submissions, although the Committee’s deliberations, following hearing of the submissions, shall be held in private.
The complainant and any person against whom the complaint is made shall, if attending in person, be entitled to be accompanied by another person of their choosing.
This might be, for example, a Tutor or other senior member, a student, including one of the officers of the JCR or MCR, an officer of CUSU or the Graduate Union, or any other person.
The Committee may seek the attendance of, and hear evidence from, any other person or persons as it thinks fit. The Committee will come to a decision as soon as possible after the hearing of the case, and shall, within four weeks of Full Term of the date when the matter was first referred to the Master under this procedure, give to the complainant and to any person or persons against whom the complaint is made a full written statement of its response to the complaint, giving reasons for its decision, and setting out the details of any remedy. Any such remedy shall be implemented with the minimum of delay.
You may also wish to seek advice from the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA)
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)
If the complainant remains dissatisfied, having followed the appropriate appeal or complaints procedure, it may be open to them to refer the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education which runs a student complaints scheme.
Advice on the appropriate procedures can be obtained from the Senior Tutor.