University Calendar 2008/9
Section IV : General Regulations
Regulations Governing Complaints from Applicants

ARCHIVE 2002/3
ARCHIVE 2003/4
ARCHIVE 2004/5
ARCHIVE 2005/6
ARCHIVE 2006/7
ARCHIVE 2007/8
1. General Principles
2. Definitions
3. The Process
  3.1 Stage 1 : Informal Complaint
  3.2 Stage 2 : Written Complaint to Head of School  
  3.3 Stage 3 : Written Complaint to Head of Registry Services
4. Monitoring of Complaints
5. Processing of Information
6. Provision of Information to Students about the Procedures
The University of Southampton is committed to ensuring that we provide for our applicants high quality and fair admissions procedures in line with our Admissions Policy. We recognise, however, that there may be occasions when applicants will feel that they have cause for complaint. This Complaints Procedure sets out how applicants may seek to have complaints addressed. It should be recognised that the vast majority of applicant complaints can be handled fairly, amicably and to the satisfaction of all concerned without recourse to this procedure. In the first instance, applicants with a complaint should raise their concerns informally with the relevant admissions tutor. If this course of action proves unsatisfactory, then the procedure set out in this document should be observed.
1. General Principles
  1.1 The University will seek to ensure that all complaints are treated seriously, positively and constructively. It will also seek to ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly, with fairness and consistency, and with due regard to the University's Equal Opportunities Policy. If a complaint is found to be justified, the University will take such action or provide such remedy as may be appropriate and will do so promptly. If a complaint is not upheld, the reasons for the decision will be communicated to the Applicant.
  1.2 Applicants will not suffer any disadvantage or recrimination as the result of making a complaint in good faith.
  1.3 Applicants, and those against whom complaints are made, may expect complaints to be dealt with confidentially and that their privacy will be respected. However, it may be necessary to disclose information to others in order to deal with the complaint; in these circumstances, the parties concerned will be informed of such disclosure. The Applicant is referred to paragraph 5 of this complaints procedure for further information relating to the processing of data by the University.
  1.4 Complaints may be made by individual applicants or by groups of applicants; they may not be lodged by a third party on the Applicant's behalf except in exceptional circumstances with the University's prior consent and upon receipt by the University of the Applicant's signed written authorisation for that third party to act on his/her behalf. All complaints must specify the applicant's full name, UCAS number (where applicable) and an address for correspondence.
  1.5 Anonymous complaints will not be dealt with under this procedure. Staff who receive anonymous complaints will be expected to use their discretion and judgement as to how to handle such a complaint.
  1.6 This Complaints Procedure may be invoked by any individual who has submitted a formal application for full-time or part-time study at the University of Southampton (either via UCAS/NMAS/GTTR/SWAS or direct to the University). It applies to applicants for both undergraduate and postgraduate study. It does not apply to applicants for courses offered at an Accredited Institution, or to applicants for courses which are wholly or partially delivered by a partner FE college except where selection for the full course is the responsibility of the University of Southampton.
  1.7 The Complaints Procedure includes a number of stages, both informal and formal, through which to seek resolution of a complaint. While applicants are expected to familiarise themselves with these procedures before raising any issues, complaints will not be rejected solely on the grounds that the Applicant has not followed the procedures in every detail. At each stage of the process the person to whom the complaint has been made shall, if it is upheld wholly or in part, apply those remedies which are within their powers. If they consider that the remedy is outside their powers, they shall refer the matter to the appropriate University authority.
  1.8 Advice about the Complaints Procedure may be obtained from Registry Services, the appropriate admissions tutor, or from the Advice and Information Centre in the Students' Union.
  1.9 These procedures are available in alternative formats. Please contact Registry Services in the first instance indicating the format required.
2. Definitions
  2.1 Applicants' complaints are likely to take one of three forms:
    2.1.1 Reconsideration of Admission Decisions

This would be a request for the reconsideration of a decision on an application or fees assessment (which may be termed an 'appeal'). The Applicant's preferred outcome in such instances is likely to be a reconsideration of the application with a view to changing the original decision. Such requests may be entertained only where there are genuine grounds, with evidence, for doing so and not simply because the Applicant is unhappy with the outcome of the application or the conditions of the offer. There is no provision for appeal against the academic or professional judgement of admissions selectors. Should an Applicant's actual performance exceed predicted performance this does not form grounds for appeal against the initial decision.

Grounds for submitting a complaint/appeal in such circumstances would relate to instances where the Applicant believes, and has evidence to support a claim, that:

  • the University has not followed its stated procedures;
  • there is evidence of bias or prejudice in the decision-making process;
  • the Applicant has new information available which, for good cause, could not have been made available at the time of initial application.
    2.1.2 Concerns Relating to Provision or Process
    Complaints about the way in which an application has been handled which might relate, for example, to the services provided by the University or to the conduct of a member of staff. The Applicant's desired outcome in such instances is likely to be recognition of error with an apology and a commitment to change procedures.
    2.1.3 Complaints about the Fees Classification Process
    This would involve appeals against the outcomes of a fees assessment and/or complaints about the way the assessment has been handled. As above, an appeal will be considered only where the student has evidence that the decision has not been taken with due regard to the current regulations, and not simply whether the Applicant disagrees with the decision reached.
  2.2 The procedures below apply in all cases except where this is clearly stated.
3. The Process
Stage 1 : Informal Complaint
  3.1 The majority of complaints can be resolved satisfactorily on an informal basis. If possible, the Applicant should first raise their complaint, either orally or in writing, with the relevant admissions tutor (or, in the case of complaints about fees classification decisions, to the Deputy Head of Registry Services) stating the remedy they are seeking. The complaint must normally be made within two months of the actions (or lack of actions) which prompted the complaint. The admissions tutor (or, for fees classification complaints, the Deputy Head of Registry Services) shall respond to the complaint normally within ten working days of the complaint being made and shall retain a note of the substance of the complaint and any action taken. If it proves impossible to respond fully within ten working days, the Applicant shall be informed of the timescale for the receipt of a full response.
  3.2 If it appears that a case may raise particular cultural or other sensitivities, the admissions tutor may also seek advice from other colleagues able to advise on these issues as he/she sees fit, including colleagues external to the University.
  3.3 If the complaint takes the shape of an appeal against non-selection, the admissions tutor must satisfy him/herself that the application was considered fairly and that the decision did comply with the relevant School selection policy. Provided that he or she is satisfied that this is the case, a standard response explaining the School selection policy which has been applied is acceptable at this stage. The response should also draw the Applicant's attention to the complaints procedure in case they wish to pursue the matter further.
  3.4 Similarly, if the Deputy Head of Registry Services is satisfied that the Student Fees (Qualifying Courses and Persons) [England] Regulations 2007 and the Education (Fees and Awards) [England] Regulations 2007 have been correctly applied, a standard response explaining these regulations is acceptable at this stage.
  3.5 For all other complaints, if a complaint is rejected the relevant admissions tutor must provide written reasons.
  3.6 If a complaint is of a general rather than a specific nature, it may be more appropriately addressed to the Deputy Head of Registry Services.
Stage 2 : Written Complaint to Head of School (or, for Fees Classification Complaints, to the Head of Registry Services)
  3.7 If the Applicant is dissatisfied with the response they receive from the relevant admissions tutor they should submit, within ten working days of receiving the response, a written complaint to the Head of School (or, for complaints relating to student fees classification, to the Head of Registry Services). The written complaint should set out briefly: the nature of the complaint; the informal steps already taken; details of the response received; and a statement as to why the Applicant remains dissatisfied and the remedy they are seeking.
  3.8 The Head of School (or Head of Registry Services) shall acknowledge receipt of a complaint in writing within five working days. The Head of School (or Head of Registry Services) shall investigate the complaint and shall submit an interim written response to the Applicant, normally within 15 working days of receipt of the complaint. If it should prove impossible to respond fully within 15 working days, the Applicant shall be informed in writing of the timescale for receipt of a full response.
  3.9 If the complaint takes the form of an appeal against non-selection, the Head of School will arrange for the application to be considered against the School's normal selection criteria by a second admissions tutor. Where possible the second admissions tutor will be from the same (or a related) subject background.
  3.10 If it appears that a case may raise particular cultural or other sensitivities, the admissions tutor may also seek advice from other colleagues able to advise on these issues as he/she sees fit, including colleagues external to the University.
Stage 3 : Written Complaint to the Head of Registry Services (or, for Fees Classification Complaints, to the Director of Student Administration and Registry)
  3.11 If, having pursued the matter to this point, the Applicant remains dissatisfied with the written response they should, within ten working days of receiving the response, refer the matter in writing to the Head of Registry Services (or, for complaints relating to fees classification decisions, to the Director of Student Administration and Registry) enclosing copies of the correspondence exchanged during the earlier stages of the procedure and any other relevant papers.
  3.12 For complaints relating to fees classification decisions, the Director of Student Administration and Registry will review the original decision against the requirements of the Student Fees (Qualifying Courses and Persons) [England] Regulations 2007 and the Education (Fees and Awards) [England] Regulations 2007 and the need for consistency of application of these regulations across the institution. The Director of Student Administration and Registry' decision following completion of this review shall be considered as final.
  3.13 For complaints relating to non-selection, the Head of Registry Services shall acknowledge in writing receipt of a formal complaint within five working days. Subject to him/her being satisfied that the Applicant has taken all reasonable steps to resolve the matter informally using the procedures in paragraphs 3.1 to 3.6 above, the Head of Registry Services shall appoint a person or persons within the University, having no material interest in the complaint, to carry out an investigation. The investigator(s) may seek to resolve the issue on the basis of documentation after having sought further information from the members of staff involved in the earlier investigation of the complaint and from the applicant or may, at the investigator(s) discretion, call a meeting at which the applicant and any other persons involved may submit their respective cases.
  3.14 The Applicant and the person who is the subject of the complaint may each be accompanied at any such meeting by a friend or colleague who may speak on their behalf if appropriate. In conducting such meetings, arrangements will be made where necessary to accommodate the requirements of applicants with special communication or other needs. This would not, however, include covering travel costs to attend such a meeting. If unavoidable circumstances prevent any party from attending such a meeting, then the parties may agree that the meeting may be postponed. The voluntary absence of one of the parties shall not prevent the meeting from proceeding. As applicants may well be resident at some distance from the University, it is expected that such meetings will only be called in exceptional circumstances.
  3.15 After investigation of the complaint, the investigator(s) shall decide whether the complaint is justified or not and shall submit a report in writing to the Head of Registry Services containing such recommendations as may be appropriate. The Head of Registry Services shall determine what action, if any, shall be taken and shall communicate this in writing to the Applicant and all other relevant parties, normally within 30 working days of the date of acknowledging receipt of the formal complaint. Applicants are requested not to contact the University until this period has expired.
  3.16 The decision of the Head of Registry Services following completion of this process will be considered as final.
4. Monitoring of Complaints
  4.1 Each Head of School will monitor, on an annual basis, complaints which have been referred to him/her under Stage 2 of these procedures and will be responsible for implementing, or recommending to the appropriate authority, changes to systems or procedures suggested by the nature and pattern of the complaints received. Such records will contain: name (anonymised), age, gender and ethnicity of applicant; programme of study applied for; summary of complaint; summary of outcome. The outcome of such monitoring may also inform other processes of activities such as arrangements for interview or standard correspondence with applicants. Schools should submit their annual monitoring report to the Head of Registry Services by the end of August each year. Formal complaints submitted to the Head of Registry Services will also be monitored. A composite paper summarising all complaints received will be presented to the annual meeting of Academic Quality and Standards Committee which is set aside to consider issues arising from student feedback, and at which reports of complaints/appeals from existing students are also considered. In the light of the report, changes to the University's systems and/or to the Complaints Procedures itself will be considered. The composite report will also be considered by the informal undergraduate and postgraduate admissions networks.
5. Processing of Information
  5.1 By submitting a signed letter of complaint (or authorising a third party to do so on their behalf) an Applicant is agreeing that the University may process all the information that it contains, together with any supporting documentation, for all purposes relating to that complaint. The information may be disclosed to those members of the University who have a need to see it for the purpose of considering and seeking a resolution of the complaint. The data will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998, and it will be stored as part of the University's record of that Applicant's application.
6. Providing Information to Students about these Procedures
    The relevant prospectus will carry a statement to the effect that selectors will make every effort to be fair but that, if applicants are dissatisfied with the way their application has been handled, they should contact the relevant selector. The prospectus should also alert them to the possibility of writing to Registry Services for a copy of these procedures in the event that they are still dissatisified. The procedure is also available on the University's website.
Further Information

Further information about, or clarification of, these procedures is available from Registry Services, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, email:

This Complaints Procedure was approved by Recruitment Strategy Committee on 17 April 2002 and by Learning and Teaching Strategy Committee on behalf of Senate on 1 May 2002. It was updated by Chair's action to reflect the revised university structures introduced on 1 August 2003. It was updated in 2005 to take into account the requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, and such changes were approved by Education Policy Committee on [February 2006] .

This procedure forms part of the University's overall quality assurance framework. It is informed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education's 'Code of Practice for the Assurance of Quality in Recruitment and Admissions', and in particular by precept 9.

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Submitted by the Secretariat
Last reviewed: 23-Jul-2008
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