Complaints: information for staff
The University is committed to providing an excellent educational experience for our students and high quality services to all other service users of the University.
The University has a duty to maintain and enhance the quality of its provision and to provide an effective system for handling complaints. The University has a Complaints Procedure which allows complainants to raise matters of concern without fear of disadvantage and in the knowledge that privacy and confidentiality will be respected.
We value complaints and use information from them to help us improve our services.
Some matters cannot be handled under the Complaints Procedure (e.g. a challenge to an academic decision should be raised as an academic appeal not a complaint).
The Complaints Procedure is available to 'service users'. As a member of staff, therefore, if you wish to raise a concern you may need to use another procedure.
Complaints will be recorded, along with any action taken. Information on complaints is published annually and statistics are available to view.
Anyone who has followed the University’s Complaints Procedure and remains dissatisfied with the University’s final response may seek Independent External Review of their complaint by contacting the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
Information for Staff
All staff are required to be aware of this Procedure, which was introduced on 14 August 2013. The terms of the Complaints Procedure have been set by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and compliance is now a condition of the SFC Funding Agreement.
- The Procedure has two stages: Stage 1 ‘frontline resolution’ and Stage 2 ‘investigation.
- We are required to provide the University’s response to complaints within five working days (at Stage 1) and within 20 working days (at Stage 2). Therefore it is very important that when a complaint is received action is taken promptly.
- Advice and Support is available to any member of staff involved in the University’s Complaints Procedure who may need to be interviewed and/or are the subject of a complaint. There is also guidance for staff accused of harassment and bullying and a Respect Advisers Network, which complements existing support structures to help staff members gain a better understanding of their rights and options.
What is a Complaint?
A complaint is defined as: 'An expression of dissatisfaction by one or more individuals about the standard of service, action or lack of action by or on behalf of the University.'
A complaint is NOT:
- a first time request for a service
- an issue that should be dealt with under another procedure (e.g. an academic appeal, a staff Grievance) [See Further information at: 'Which Procedure should I use']
- issues raised through routine feedback exercises (e.g. questionnaires, Annual Monitoring, Staff-Student Liaison Committee meetings).
The Procedure states that a complaint does not need to be in writing, so you may receive a complaint by telephone or in person.
For further information on what constitutes a complaint please see: What is a complaint?
I have received a complaint - what should I do?
There are two stages to the University Complaints Procedure: Stage 1 'frontline resolution' and Stage 2 'investigation'. You will only be required to handle a Stage 2 complaint if you are a trained 'Investigating Officer' and if a case is allocated to you by the Complaints Resolution Office. If someone submits a complaint to you saying that it is a Stage 2 complaint, or you are unsure it can be responded to at Stage 1, please refer the matter to the Complaints Resolution Office (by e-mail: email@example.com or by phone: ext. 6441).
Most staff, therefore, will only be required to deal with Stage 1 complaints.
All staff are required to be aware of the Complaints Procedure and to know how to respond when someone makes a complaint.
The Procedure requires us to provide a response to the complaint within five working days, so action needs to be taken quickly.
The first question to ask yourself is: 'Is this a complaint that needs to be handled under the Complaints Procedure?' Please see ‘What is a complaint?’ for guidance or contact the Complaints Resolution Office.
A quick guide to responding to a complaint at Stage 1 can be found here
I don’t think the complaint can be addressed in five working days
In order to address the complaint, you may need to speak to someone who is away, or to access some paperwork which is temporarily unavailable or which is extensive and detailed. The Complaints Procedure allows an extension to the five working days, up to a maximum of ten. You should:
- send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: 'extension request' explaining why you need an extension to the five working day deadline.
- Contact the complainant and explain the delay.
You may consider that the complaint is so complex that it cannot be resolved within five (or even 10) working days. For example, it may be obvious that several people will need to be consulted before an appropriate response can be provided or there is a large amount of documentation to be considered. In this case, please contact the Complaints Resolution Office by e-mailing email@example.com or by phoning ext. 6441 to discuss whether the complaint should be referred to Stage 2 of the Procedure.
I am not the best person to respond to the complaint
The Complaints Procedure allows a complaint to be made to any member of staff. The person who receives the complaint therefore may not be best placed to address it. However, if the complaint has been made to you, you must identify who should deal with it and agree with them that you will refer the complaint to them. It is not sufficient to tell the complainant that he or she needs to raise the complaint with someone else. If you are not sure who should deal with the complaint, discuss it with your line manager.
I am the appropriate person to address the complaint. What should I do?
The emphasis of Stage 1 of the procedure is swift resolution. With a deadline of only five working days for addressing the complaint, the first step is to be sure that you understand both the complaint and the remedy being sought. If not, check with the complainant.
There may be different elements to the complaint so you may need input from colleagues who know more about what happened or who will be able to advise what normal procedures are and what would be reasonable. Consult any relevant documentation.
Reach a view on whether the complaint is justified. If something has gone wrong, assess what should have happened, whether any remedy or an apology should be offered and whether action needs to be taken to avoid similar situations occurring in the future.
I have reached a conclusion in relation to the complaint. What should I do now?
You should report your conclusion to the complainant. The Complaints Procedure says that this does not have to be in writing. This reflects the aim to address complaints as swiftly as possible. However, if you report in person or by phone, you should follow this up in writing (by post or e-mail) with a summary of your conclusions.
In reporting the outcome to a complainant, you must advise them that if they are not satisfied with the outcome they have the right to escalate the matter to Stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure.
A template of a letter reporting the outcome is available.
You must also submit a record of the complaint to the Complaints Resolution Office by completing the form. The form reflects the categories of information that we are required to keep by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. The form should be completed and immediately submitted together with any relevant documents (e.g. letter/e-mail reporting/confirming outcome, complaint form – if one was submitted)
If you encounter problems with submitting the information electronically, please contact the Complaints Resolution Office.
Log a Stage 1 Complaint
It is a requirement of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman that the University keeps a record of all complaints. (If you are not sure whether the matter being raised is a complaint, please see ‘What is a Complaint?’) When you have responded to a Stage 1 complaint, please complete and submit the form. (You may be asked to log in using your GUID.) You will need to provide details of the complainant, the complaint, the outcome, when the complaint was received and when the response was provided. Users are advised to use Internet Explorer 11 or Chrome to access the form.
The record will be held in the Complaints Resolution Office and the information provided will be used to fulfill our reporting requirements.
Senate Assessors for Complaints
Senior Senate Assessor for Complaints:
Dr Kathryn Lowe
Senate Assessors for Complaints:
Dr Alastair Gracie
Professor Tom Mullen
Dr Peter Sneddon