OIA publishes new Student Complaints Scheme Rules

Eloise Di Pasqua

The OIA has published new rules on the Student Complaints Scheme. Some of the changes concern formatting and terminology only. However the substantive changes are:

  • The purpose of the OIA is now the independent, impartial and transparent review of unresolved complaints. It also aims to promote good practice.
  • A HEI must now issue a Completion of Procedures Letter not more than 28 days after the HEI’s internal complaints procedure has been exhausted.
  • The exceptional circumstances where the Reviewer may accept a complaint have been set out clearly for instance where the internal procedure has not been exhausted, where an application is received more than 3 months after the Completion of Procedures Letter was issued or where the substantive events complained of occurred more than 3 years ago.
  • When deciding what further information it needs to conduct a review, the Reviewer may allow parties the opportunity to comment on representations received.
  • The Rules set out what a Reviewer may do after the Complaint Outcome (previously a ‘Formal Decision’) has been issued including conducting a further Review or issuing a revised Complaint Outcome. The Reviewer must write to the parties to confirm that the Complaint Outcome (or revised) is the OIA’s final decision once the review is concluded.
  • The power of the Reviewer to terminate or suspend the consideration of a complaint has been made clearer:
    • The Rules provide specific examples of where the power to suspend or terminate where a party has unreasonably delayed or acted unreasonably would arise. For instance, where the Complainant repeatedly fails to meet deadlines set by the Reviewer. This power is limited to use against the Complainant’s conduct only.
    • The review may also be terminated or suspended if the complaint has no real prospect of success or the Complainant can no longer be contacted.
    • Based on the Reviewer’s opinion of the Complainant’s Representative, the review may also be suspended and/or the Complainant’s Representative may not be permitted to act.
  • The OIA has the power to reopen a review and issued a revised Complaint Outcome where it is satisfied that there is good reason to do so.
  • A Complainant can appeal against a decision of the Reviewer to dismiss/reject the complaint or terminate/suspend the review, if the decision to do so was made under specific rules for example where the complaint was out of time.
  • The role of the Board has been shortened considerably by making reference to Governance of the OIA Scheme (this includes the OIA’s Articles of Association which contain the same powers and duties of the Board as the old Rules).
  • The role of Independent Adjudicator (IA) has also been shortened by making reference to Governance of the OIA Scheme:
    • Some duties of the IA have been removed including attending meetings, producing a draft annual budget and dealing with staff issues (although the OIA’s Articles of Association give a broad definition of the role of the IA which may still include these).
    • The IA may now publish digests of complaints in an anonymised form and statistical information (although this is already in the OIA’s Articles of Association).
    • The power to delegate no longer states that the IA shall exercise reasonable care and skill to ensure delegates discharge their duties to the standard expected of the IA itself.

The Rules are effective from 1 March 2013 for complaints received on or after this date.

Eloise Di Pasqua
Education Team
For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP
DD: 0800 763 1377
F: 0800 763 1001
International DD: +44 870 763 1377
E: eloise.dipasqua@sghmartineau.com
W: www.sghmartineau.com

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