The Complaint Process

If you have a justified complaint which relates to an academic or administrative department or a College service (other than those which are disqualified), you should follow the procedures set out below.

It is hoped that the first informal stage will enable many concerns to be resolved to your satisfaction amicably and quickly (in general, informal complaints should be responded to within around five working days of raising the concern). We therefore encourage you to seek to resolve any difficulties informally in the first instance. A complaint that cannot be satisfactorily resolved informally may then be submitted formally.

If you have a justified formal complaint, you should submit this as quickly as possible and within three months of the incident or action being complained about. Please do not wait until your results are published for fear that raising complaints at the time will adversely affect your grades; this is not the case and will only lead to possible regrets and dissatisfaction as retrospective complaints cannot be investigated unless in exceptional circumstances.

Please see the Informal Complaint Flowchart for clarification of this process.

Help and Advice

Royal Holloway is a friendly and caring community, offering an extremely high level of student welfare support to help you get the most out of your time at the College.  We understand that there are a large number of factors that can negatively influence your university experience, but there are also many places you can go for advice and guidance. Please follow this link to the College’s Student Welfare pages.

The Advice & Support Centre at the Students’ Union is able to provide support and advice before, during and after a complaint (tel. +44 (0)1784 276700).

If you are still not sure how to express your complaint, you can contact the College Secretary’s Office ( or Support and Advisory Services (

Third Party Assistance

It is expected that you will act on your own behalf when communicating with the College. You are not prevented from obtaining advice and assistance from any party, including lawyers, but a complaint is an internal rather than a legal process so it is inappropriate for you to be represented by a lawyer, and no advantage will be gained by doing so.

If you do appoint a third party representative, the College will proceed to communicate directly with that representative and not with you until advised otherwise. You must therefore be sure that your representative knows about your complaint and is able to devote sufficient time to it.

 If you decide to appoint legal representation, the College reserves the right to appoint their own which may result in your complaint taking considerably longer to investigate.

Informal Complaint

If the complaint relates to an administrative matter, or is about an administrative function or a service, you are advised raise it informally with a member of that office or service (either in person or in writing).

If you have a complaint about an academic matter you are advised to try to resolve it informally with your Academic Co-ordinator, Head of Department or other appropriate member of staff (eg. Director of Graduate Studies if you are a postgraduate student). If in doubt about whom to approach for an academic manner, you should ask for advice from your Personal Adviser.

If you are unsure of who to contact for a non-academic matter, please seek advice from the Advice & Support Centre at the Students’ Union (tel. +44 (0)1784 276700).

There is no need to complete a complaint form for complaints made informally. Records of such complaints will not normally be kept by the College Secretary, unless you and the member of staff dealing with it wish them to. In this case a complaint form should be completed and logged with the College Secretary Office.  

Formal Complaint

A formal complaint means that:

  • the details of the complaint are recorded on a complaint form
  • all complaint forms are sent to the College Secretary and kept on file
  • a report on all formal complaints (not including the names of students or stafsf) is made annually to the College Council

You are urged to submit your complaint as quickly as possible, and within three months of the incident or action being complained about. If you submit a complaint outside of this deadline it will not normally be investigated.

Complaint Form:

An electronic copy of the Formal Complaint Form can be found here and is also attached as an appendix to the Complaints Procedures. If you cannot access the form this way, your department/school or the Students’ Union can download one for you. 

You should submit your completed complaint form electronically to

If your complaint is considered by the College Secretary to be frivolous or malicious, disciplinary action may be taken under the regulations governing non-academic offences.

Formal Complaint

Once the College Secretary’s Office receives a complaint form, they will consider the content and:

  • forward the complaint to an appropriate Investigating Officer (see below for examples)
  • provide an immediate written acknowledgement to the student(s) concerned
  • inform any member(s) of staff concerned that a complaint has been received, including their line manager if appropriate

Investigating Officer

The College Secretary’s Office will appoint an appropriate Investigating Officer. This might be:

  • your Head(s) of Department for academic matters
  • the Heads of Administrative Departments for matters relating to the work of their Departments
  • the Director of Information Services for matters concerning the Computer Centre
  • the Librarian for matters relating to the Library
  • the Director of Resources & College Secretary for complaints about the Heads of Administrative Departments or matters relating to the Health & Safety Office
  • the Principal for complaints about the work of a senior member of staff (such cases will normally be referred to a Vice-Principal)


The appropriate Investigating Officer will investigate your complaint, seeking relevant documentation from any member of staff and, at his/her discretion call a meeting at which you and any other persons involved may submit your views on the complaint. 

Initial Findings

Following the investigation, the Investigating Officer will write to you with their initial findings, explaining the facts, judgements and conclusions. The Deputy College Secretary will also receive a copy of the initial findings, along with your case file for review. 

Where possible, the College will take appropriate action to deal with your concerns and will reimburse any necessary expenses where appropriate. At any stage of this procedure it may be found that your complaint is partly or wholly justified and that some form of remedy is appropriate, which will depend on the particular circumstances of your case.

Please remember that no academic outcome can be altered as a result of the complaints process and academic judgement cannot be overturned in any form. 

Responding to the Initial Findings

If you are not for any reason satisfied with the content of the initial findings letter, you will be given 2 weeks from the date of receiving the initial findings letter in which to comment.

This stage is managed by the College Secretary’s Office who will ask you to submit a statement in which you should clearly state how your response relates to one or more of the following grounds:

  • You feel that you have been misunderstood in relation to your complaint
  • There were administrative or procedural errors in the investigation, or the principles of natural justice were not followed
  • There is new documentary evidence to be taken into account which you could not possibly have provided before or during the investigation

If you have not submitted a response by the 2 week deadline, the College Secretary's Office will issue you with a Completion of Procedures Letter (see below).

If you do decide to respond to the initial findings on one or more of the grounds stated above, the Vice-Principal or nominee will consider the details of the case and all relevant documentation provided by the Investigating Officer. He/she will review the case, along with your response, and may, if necessary, take further advice.

It may be possible for the Vice-Principal or nominee to review your complaint using the documentation provided, otherwise a meeting may be called at which both you and any other persons involved may put your views forward.

Final Outcome

Once the College Secretary's Office is satisfied that the investigation is complete, you will be sent a Completion of Procedures Letter confirming the College’s final decision on your complaint. 

Further Action

Once all internal procedures have been exhausted the College will not investigate the matter any further.

If you are unsatisfied with the outcome, however, you can ask for your case to be reviewed by the OIA.

Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)

This option only becomes available to you after the College’s internal procedures have been completed. The College will send you a Completion of Procedures Letter at the appropriate time, after which you will have three months in which to refer your case to the OIA, if you meet their grounds for investigation.

In cases where your concerns are about academic standards and quality, to the extent that your concerns indicate serious systemic or procedural problems, you may also be able to register your concerns with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.


What evidence should I include in my formal complaint?

In order for your complaint to be investigated you must include evidence to support your argument.  There is no limit as to how much evidence you can submit.  If you have been given a deadline but the evidence is not yet available be sure to submit your complaint anyway, explain why your evidence is delayed and submit your evidence as soon as possible.

How long will an investigation into a formal complaint take?

Normally an initial findings letter will be sent to you within around twenty working days of the Investigating Officer receiving the complaint. In cases where a meeting is called, the investigation may take longer.

Who will be told about my formal complaint?

The College recognises that it has to balance its obligations to, and rights of, employees and the rights of students; those about whom complaints have been made have a right to know what is being claimed and who is making the complaint.

A copy of the formal complaint will be sent to the person who is being complained about. That person will have the right to respond to the complaint and seek support or representation from a friend or trade union representative.

Anonymous complaints will not normally be investigated. The effectiveness of any complaints procedure depends on the College being able to collect appropriate information from the parties involved in order to investigate the matter properly. Therefore, only the College Secretary can decide whether to investigate an anonymous complaint. If you are worried about revealing your identity, you can contact the Students’ Union Advice & Support Centre who may be able to make initial enquiries for you. 

Will a meeting be called?

The Investigating Officer may decide to call a meeting in order to clearly establish the facts of the case and the nature of the complaint, at which you and any other persons involved may submit views on the complaint. The principles of natural justice will be adopted for any such meetings and in particular:

  • all students and staff likely to be asked to appear shall be given as much notice as possible of the date and time of the meeting
  • anyone appearing before the meeting may be accompanied and supported by another student or member of staff, provided they inform the Chair of the meeting in advance
  • at the discretion of the Chair of the meeting, and only where all parties agree, the meeting may be held in public if requested by the student

Please note that it is not appropriate to appoint someone from the legal profession on a professional basis to act on your behalf as this is an internal process.  

Will mediation be used?

The Deputy College Secretary may propose that a complaint which is proving difficult to resolve be referred to a mediation procedure. This procedure would normally involve a trained mediator, who is not a member of staff or student of the College, assisting you and the College under a mutually agreed procedure. 

Could my complaint lead to disciplinary action against others?

Your complaint may lead to disciplinary action against another student or students, under the regulations governing non-academic offences. In such circumstances you may be required to give evidence as part of the disciplinary procedures. 

Your complaint may also cause disciplinary action against a member or members of staff in accordance with the relative College Procedures. In such circumstances you may be required to give evidence as part of the disciplinary procedures. 

How long will it take for my response to the initial findings to be considered?

A decision by the Vice Principal or nominee will normally be communicated to you within around twenty working days of the submission to the College Secretary’s Office, though this may not be possible at certain times of the year and may be longer if a meeting is called. You will be kept informed of the progress of your complaint.

Can I request to see what information the College holds about me?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 you have the right to receive confirmation detailing what information the College holds about you and receive a copy of that information. To obtain this, requests should be made to the College Secretary’s Office, making it clear what information you would like and enclosing the standard fee of £10.  You will not be entitled to see anything that reveals personal information about someone else. The College must respond to requests within 40 calendar days.

Can I request to see College documents?

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 you also have a right to request general College documents. With some exceptions, the College must supply these within 20 working days. The College may charge you depending on the time required to assemble the information, but this will be discussed with you before any costs are incurred. Applications should be made to the College Secretary’s Office.

Is the Complaints Procedure monitored?

The College Council will receive regular reports (no less than one each academic year) concerning the operation of the complaints procedure. Such reports will not contain any confidential information relating to individual case.

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