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Higher Education

November 19, 2009

If you are unhappy with the services of your university or college, or have a problem with funding or student loans you can make a complaint.

Who can you complain to?

In the first instance you should complain to the university, college or other body responsible for delivering the service. They will also be able to supply you with details of other formal complaints mechanisms open to you.

What grounds do you have to complain?

Your first step regarding any complaint should always be to try and sort it out in an informal manner with the university, college or body responsible for delivering the service. They should respond to you within 10 working days. The rest of this section deals with more formal complaints procedures.

Universities and colleges

Higher education institutions have their own policies and procedures in place for handling complaints and academic appeals from students. In the first instance you should always contact them. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has published good practice guidelines for institutions to work towards when developing these policies.

If your university or college’s complaints procedure has exhausted and you wish to take the matter further you can contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, an independent organisation that handles student complaints against higher education institutions.

Student Unions

Under the government’s charter for higher education all student unions at campus level will be governed by codes of practice which will protect students from any unfair practices or political bias by their campus union. Students will be given a right of appeal to an outside authority if they think their student union has acted unfairly.


If you think your LEA has treated you unfairly (eg has been slow in processing your grant or has made serious administrative errors) you should complain to your council officials or your local councillor. You may also write to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Student loans

If you have a grievance about the performance of the student loans company you must first contact the Student Loans Company.

The SLC’s complaints department aims to deal with complaints within 14 days; if you are unsatisfied with the response the complaint can be passed up to the executive level.

If you are not satisfied with the SLC’s reply or they take longer than three months to get back to you, you can ask them to refer your case to the Independent Loans Assessor, but you can only appeal to the Independent Loans Assessor if your complaint has gone through the full internal process. The Independent Loans Assessor is available to solve disputes regarding maladministration, unfair treatment or a breach of practice by the SLC.

The SLC and Revenue & Customs will be able to provide you with details of their complaints procedures. If, having exhausted this procedure, you are still dissatisfied, you are entitled to have an independent review of your case. Independent reviews of the handling of student loans can be dealt with by the parliamentary ombudsman for services provided by central government.

Appeals against a decision will be dealt with by the organisation handling your account. If these procedures are unable to resolve the problem you are entitled to make an appeal to an external body. Appeals concerning student loans will be dealt with by:

  • The student loans assessor for services provided by the student loans company
  • The tax commissioners for services provided by the Revenue & Customs – you can ask the company’s independent assessor to investigate
  • Will you get a fair hearing?

    Complaints to the higher education quality council, the local government ombudsman and the student loans company’s assessor are independent.

    All other complaints mechanisms are internal.

    What will happen if you’re successful?

    If your complaint is found to be justified then matters will usually be put right to your satisfaction. If the local government ombudsman finds in your favour then they may recommend, for example, that your LEA pays you compensation.