Complaints and academic appeals | University of Oxford
Complaints and appeals, Oxford
Undergraduate students in tutorial, Oxford, UK
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Complaints and academic appeals

If you have cause for concern the following information provides guidance on who would be the best person to approach. Usually the initial raising of a concern is successful in resolving a problem, however, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome then other procedures are available to you. The steps to submit a formal complaint are detailed below.

University matters

If you have concerns about University examinations or teaching, staff or student conduct, research integrity or services, the following sections will help you to identify who to contact.

Academic decisions - examination and assessments

You may first discuss any concern about the outcome of a taught-course examination with your subject tutor, course director, supervisor, or, where appropriate, the relevant Director of Graduate Studies.

Queries and appeals must not be raised directly with the examiners.

If, following such a discussion, you have a concern about procedures not being correctly followed during an examination or you have reason to believe that your examination was not conducted fairly, you may make an academic appeal to the Proctors under the academic appeals procedure (see guidance for students). You may contact a caseworker in the Proctors' Office to discuss your options (in confidence and without committing yourself to any action) before the formal appeals procedure is followed, via your Senior Tutor. You should also usually submit your appeal to the Proctors via your Senior Tutor.

If you are a research degree student, you may submit your academic appeal directly to the Proctors' Office.

Please note: academic appeals should be submitted on the appropriate form as soon as possible and at the latest within 20 days of the date when you were notified of the relevant academic decision (i.e. your examination results (including research degree outcomes)).

The Proctors will only consider appeals on the basis of procedural irregularities, not appeals against examiners’ academic judgement. The Proctors will only authorise the re-checking of marks if there is evidence of an irregularity having occurred or if some other sufficiently serious justification is in play. Papers will be re-marked only if investigation by the Proctors has found a serious problem in the original examination process.

University services including teaching and supervision

Before making a formal complaint you are expected to try to resolve the matter locally in the relevant department. For example:

  • Department or faculty facilities (other than libraries): Contact the Director of Studies.
  • Bodleian Libraries: Consult with the Librarian in the immediate area. If you feel that your concerns have not been addressed satisfactorily, you should write to Bodley's Librarian, Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG.
  • Central University services: Please write to the head of the respective University Administration and Service.
  • Teaching and Supervision: Contact the relevant department (for undergraduates this will be the Director of Undergraduate Studies or departmental administrator and for graduates the departmental adviser, Director of Graduate Studies or departmental administrator).

You may contact a caseworker in the Proctors' Office to discuss (in confidence and without committing yourself to any action) before the formal complaints procedure is followed. You can also seek advice from your college tutor, college advisor or Senior Tutor.

If you are unable to resolve the matter locally you can submit a complaint to the Proctors’ Office using the appropriate form and should do so as soon as possible and in any event within 3 months of when the matters you are complaining about occurred.

Staff and student conduct

A complaint about the behaviour of a member of staff in the University should be made to his or her head of department or, in the case of a conflict of interest, to the head of division under the University policy and procedure on harassment. If the member of staff is employed by a unit within the University Administration and Services (UAS) or Academic Services and University Collections (ASUC), you should write to the relevant head of that service. In cases where it is not immediately clear to whom a complaint should be addressed, advice may be sought from Personnel Services.

A complaint about the behaviour of another student in the University which constitutes harassment may be raised with the student and with the Director of Student Welfare and Support Services in accordance with the University policy and procedure on harassment.

If these actions do not resolve the situation, or for other kinds of misconduct by students, you can make a formal complaint to the Proctors under the Disciplinary Procedure. Such complaints should normally be made within 6 months of the behaviour complained about. 

There are additional considerations which will be taken into account where the conduct complained of would constitute a serious criminal offence if prosecuted in the criminal courts. See Appendix D to the Disciplinary Procedure for further information.

Research integrity

You are expected to observe the highest standards in the conduct of your research. Prior to making any formal allegation, sources of advice and support include fellow researchers and colleagues, supervisors, mentors, senior tutors, Proctors, Directors of Graduate Studies, heads of department, faculty or division, Research Ethics Committees, Research Services, Oxford Students Union (SU).

The Code of Practice and Procedure for Academic Integrity in Research details the procedures in event of suspected misconduct in research.

General information relating to complaints and appeals

When making any formal complaint to the University you should ensure that you read the appropriate procedure carefully. You should also be aware in particular that:

  • A copy of your complaint will normally be supplied to the person who is the subject of the complaint. There are exceptions to this rule, for instance in the initial stages of the harassment procedures.
  • The University seeks to protect any member of the University community from victimisation arising from bringing a complaint or assisting in an investigation where they act in good faith. If the complaint is found to be malicious the University or college may take appropriate disciplinary action against the complainant. Such action will not be taken if a complaint which proves to be unfounded is judged to have been made in good faith.
  • It is the University's expectation that the confidentiality of the documentation generated by a complaint will be respected by all parties. Breaches of confidentiality may give rise to disciplinary action.

Once your complaint has reached the final stage of the applicable procedure, you will be issued a Completion of Procedures Letter. If you wish to take your complaint further, you may be able to bring a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).

Oxford Student Union (SU)

The SU operates a full complaints procedure. Enquiries should be addressed to the President.

College matters

If you have a complaint about a college matter, including college teaching and examinations, you should take it up with the relevant college officers. Help and advice is available from your college Dean, tutor, senior tutor, academic administrator, JCR, MCR or SU representative. Your college may have a published complaints procedure, this is usually found in your college handbook. The Proctors have no jurisdiction over college matters, including the quality of teaching provided in college, collections (internal college examinations), college disciplinary procedures or the behaviour of a member of staff in college.

Office if the Independent Adjudicators

The Independent Adjudicator can deal with complaints about:

  • programmes of study or research
  • services provided to you as a student by the University and/or by your college
  • a final decision by the University or by your college about a disciplinary matter or a complaint.

The OIA cannot, however, deal with complaints about matters of academic judgement, matters that are the subject of legal proceedings, or matters relating to student employment. 

Public Interest Disclosure (Whistle-Blowing)

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1999 provides employees with legal protection against being dismissed or penalised as a result of disclosing certain serious concerns (‘whistle-blowing’); such concerns might include criminal activity, danger to health and safety, or professional malpractice. The University’s code of practice and procedure under the Act is available.

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