Industrial Action Complaints

What, how and when you can make a complaint about the impact of strike action at Goldsmiths.

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The College is working hard to minimise disruption to your student experience resulting from the period of industrial action. Heads of Department and senior staff help us to investigate complaints and at the moment they are busy preparing on-line teaching and preparing new modes of assessment as a result of Covid-19. There will be a delay in completing investigations and sending outcome letters for industrial action complaints.

The changes to teaching and assessments are likely also to be important to outcome of complaints about recent strike action - we cannot complete investigations until we know what steps have been taken to make up for learning that did not go ahead as planned, and until we know what decisions are being made about future study.

If you are experiencing difficulties as a result of the strikes you may be able to make a complaint. Please follow the complaint process below.

You may not need to submit a new complaint form if you already made a complaint about strike action that took place in November / December 2019.

We anticipate that learning opportunities will be made available for students over time. If a taught session went ahead but you chose not to attend because you did not want to cross a picket line, then it would not count as a lost learning opportunity.

What you can complain about

You can complain about any dissatisfaction as a direct result of the strikes. However, you cannot use the Student Complaints Procedure to raise concerns about policy decisions.

The College’s position on industrial action is a matter of policy and outside the scope of the Student Complaints Procedure. Complaints that are solely about the College’s position on the strikes will not be considered. These should be raised with the College via Goldsmiths Students' Union channels.

Information about the November and December 2019 strike complaints

The deadline for submitting complaints about the strikes in November and December 2019 has now passed.

We will be dealing with all strike complaints by department.

Strike complaint groups have started a series of meetings, and these will be continuing into early March 2020. We are also gathering information from academic departments to help in reaching decisions on Stage Two complaints.

We had intended to send decisions to students within a few weeks after the meetings, but the new strike action is likely to affect this. We will be writing to students with current complaints about what they should do next.

You may not need to submit a new complaint form if you already made a complaint about strike action that took place in November / December 2019. We will gather information about the cancellation of taught sessions and about learning opportunities that are made available to students to mitigate for this

We will keep this page updated.

How to complain about the strikes

The deadline for submitting a Stage Two complaint with regard to industrial action in 2019-20 was Friday 24 April 2020

The Appeals & Complaints Team can consider late complaints if you have a clear reason for the delay.

How complaints will be dealt with

The College has been investigating complaints now that the industrial action has concluded.

Complainants have received regular updates and information about the procedure for reaching decisions on strike complaints.

Complaints are being assessed by three Strike Complaint Groups, each chaired by a Head of School together with two senior members of staff.

These groups are looking at complaints from students within each department based on their year group, programme of study and priority factors. Decisions will be sent from late June onwards.

Students can contact the Appeals & Complaints Team by email: complaints (@gold.ac.uk).

Students dissatisfied with a Stage Two decision may submit a Stage Three request for review – please use the Stage 3 IA Complaint Form.

Decision letters make clear that the deadline for Stage Three is within one-month of the date of the Stage Two outcome. A review request can only be considered if it is based on one or more of the following grounds: 

  • There were procedural irregularities in the investigation of the complaint; or
  • Fresh evidence can be presented which could not reasonably have been made available with submission of the Stage Two Form; or
  • The outcome of the investigation was not reasonable in all the circumstances.

We will not always be able to consider evidence that is provided after the investigation has been completed – unless it is material to the complaint and the student has given valid reasons for not supplying it earlier. Students can expect to have a clear explanation about the Stage Two decision. If making a Stage Three request they will need to explain why they consider a decision to be unreasonable. Grounds for review will be looked at in light of the overall circumstances including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Decisions, whether to accept a Stage Three review request, may be taken by the Appeals & Complaints Team and for strike complaints decisions may be made by a Strike Complaint Review Panel headed by the Registrar and Secretary or her nominee rather than by a Complaints Committee (in a change to the normal Complaints Procedure).

Making decisions on complaints

Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) guidance

Many students making complaints about industrial action are seeking a refund of tuition fees based on an hourly rate for taught sessions that did not go ahead due to strike action. The College has stated that it does not intend to make refunds on this basis.

The OIA has stated that it is difficult to make a direct correlation between missed contact hours and annual tuition fees to work out the “cost” of missed sessions does not account for other factors such as: other learning opportunities, facilities, or the potential in “value” of final year teaching compared to first year teaching. These are all factors that the College will take into account before reaching decisions on student complaints about the impact of strike action.

The priority for the College is to assess the practical arrangements in place to support students and mitigate the impact of the strike action. In addition, students are encouraged to take steps to undertake self-directed study and to work together where possible, using resources and facilities within the College.

The OIA have published a number of “case summaries” on the OIA website about complaint decisions related to the industrial action that took place in 2018. These summaries help explain what higher education providers are expected to do to help manage the impact of strike action on students.

You can follow this link to read a Partly Justified decision made by the OIA and this link to read a Not Justified decision - both on the OIA website.  These help explain how the OIA expect the College to respond in a fair and reasonable way to complaints about the impact of strike action.

In these cases, the OIA looked at:

  • Information provided to students by the higher education provider about the strikes
  • Steps taken by the higher education provider to mitigate for lost learning opportunities generally
  • Steps taken by the higher education provider to mitigate for any potential impact of the strikes on academic outcomes (including changes to exam questions)
  • The student’s year of study and whether it was practically possible to make up for lost learning at a later point of the course

Other factors that may affect a decision on a strike complaint can include the structure of the module/course, other opportunities available for students to have contact time with tutors, and arrangements in place to support students with disabilities.

Outcome of complaints

The final outcomes for complaints about strike action may take some time to complete. Departments may require time to make arrangements to minimise disruption for students. The timing for sending outcomes may also be impacted by the arrangements being put in place to respond to the challenges of Covid-19.