Complaints Guidance

Article

We recommend that you read this Guidance before submitting a complaint.

Some concerns as a result of Covid-19 - for example the decisions about changing to on-line teaching and closures on campus - may not come under the Complaints Procedure. These are policy matters or beyond the control of the College and going through the Student Complaints Procedure is unlikely to lead to any changes.

Policy matters should be raised with the College via Goldsmiths Students' Union channels.

Please use our on-line Stage Two Complaint Form. If you would prefer a copy of the Complaints guidance in PDF format please contact us by email complaints (@gold.ac.uk).

What is a complaint, and who can make one?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction by one or more students about something that has happened or something that did not happen, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the College.

Any enrolled or interrupted student can make a complaint. Complaints should normally be raised within 3 months of the events you are complaining about. This makes sure that your concerns can be investigated properly - events will be fresh in everyone's mind and the College will have the opportunity to understand your concerns and help put things right.

Contacting the department or team to resolve matters is often the best way to address concerns. It may help to raise the issue with the member of staff concerned, or with a personal tutor or Departmental Senior Tutor first (or with the service manager if it is not a departmental matter), with the aim of resolving things locally. We call this first stage “Front-Line Resolution”. 

Former students and graduates can also make a complaint under this procedure, but must raise the complaint within two-months of leaving Goldsmiths.

Problems you may raise a complaint about

 

Problems you may raise a complaint about:Problems you may not raise a complaint about:
  1. Academic complaints, such as concerns about module delivery, administration, teaching or feedback.
  2. Personal complaints about a member of staff, or another student or group of students.
  3. Non-academic and non-personal complaints relating to accommodation, or general nonacademic or professional services.
  4. Harassment, bullying or discrimination in any form. There is a special procedure called Report & Support if you have a concern about sexual harassment.
  1. Decisions relating to admission to Goldsmiths: applicants should consult the Admissions Policy to find out how to raise matters of concern.
  2. Anonymous complaints will not normally be addressed under this procedure (but be assured that details will be kept confidential).
  3. Concerns about College policy or governance should be raised via Goldsmiths Students’ Union, which is represented on College committees including Council (the governing body).
  4. Complaints regarding short courses are not considered under the College’s formal complaints procedure as only enrolled (or interrupted) students can submit formal complaints and students undertaking short courses are not formally enrolled to the College. Any concerns should instead be raised with the short course convenor and/or the relevant department involved in the running of the course.

You do not use the Complaints Procedure to complain about a decision made by a Board of Examiners; for this, you need to make an appeal against assessment.

What your complaint should contain

In order for your complaint to be properly investigated it is essential that you are specific when describing its cause and nature:

  • You should provide full details, including full name, student number and term-time address and attach all relevant documentation, such as evidence. Please use our on-line Stage Two Complaint Form. Please contact the Complaints Team if you need a copy in Word or PDF format -  (complaints (@gold.ac.uk)
  • You should explain what attempts have already been made to resolve the complaint, the main points of your complaint; when these took place and who was involved. Please let us know what you are looking for as an outcome to your complaint - we will take this into account so far as possible.

Students should expect to receive an acknowledgement of receipt of their complaint within five working days.

How can we submit a complaint as a group?

If a problem has affected a group of students, they can submit a group complaint. They should nominate one member of the group, to whom Goldsmiths will respond and who will inform the rest of the group as to the progress and outcome of the complaint. 

A list of the names, student numbers and signatures of all students who are party to the submission of the complaint should be included with the Stage Two form.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, we may decide to contact individual students with personalised outcomes once the complaint has been investigated.

Stage One: Front-Line Resolution

The first part of the complaints procedure is front-line resolution. It is an informal element, the purpose of which is to resolve student concerns before they escalate into formal complaints.

This might be done by:

  • giving more information.
  • providing explanations.
  • suggesting solutions.
  • being empathetic and understanding when there is no apparent solution.
  • giving an apology where it seems appropriate to do so.
  • introducing student and staff conciliators.

Questions to consider in attempting early resolution of concerns might include:

  • What specifically is your concern about and which area(s) of the College was/are involved?
  • What outcome are you hoping for and can it be achieved?
  • Is the concern straightforward and likely to be resolved with little or no investigation?
  • Can it be resolved on the spot by providing, where appropriate, an explanation, an alternative solution or an apology?
  • Can someone else assist in seeking resolution, for example where an informal administrative resolution is required?
  • Is there merit in using confidential mediation?
  • What assistance or support can be provided in taking this forward?

Whatever early resolution mechanism is used, you should be able to air your concerns and feel that they have been listened to. Resolution might be achieved by providing an on-the-spot explanation of why the issue occurred and/or (where appropriate) an apology and an explanation of what will be done to stop a similar situation happening in the future. 

If students remain dissatisfied with the response to the complaint at Stage One, or if matters have not been satisfactorily resolved within two weeks of the problem having been raised, they should progress the matter to Stage Two.

Stage Two: Formal Complaint

This is the formal complaint, initiated when:

  • The student declines to engage with early resolution and initiates the formal process in line with College procedures;
  • Early resolution was attempted, but the student remains dissatisfied and initiates the formal process in line with College procedures;
  • The issues raised are complex and will require detailed investigation, for example where a complaint relates to the conduct of staff members or covers a number of different incidents.

In order to submit a Stage Two complaint, you must fill out and submit a Stage Two Complaint Form, setting out your complaint in full and attaching any relevant evidence.

The Complaints Team will determine if the complaint is in time and if it is submitted under the correct procedures. If it is, the complaint will be forwarded to an Investigating Officer (normally the relevant Head of Department for an academic complaint or, for a non-academic complaint, an appropriate senior member of professional services). The Complaints Team will make sure that the Investigating Officer has not had detailed involvement in your complaint. If the Head of Department has already been involved, an alternative member of staff will be identified to conduct the Stage Two investigation. 

After the complaint has been submitted, you may be contacted for further information. Students also have the right to meet with the person investigating their complaint should they wish to. 

The outcome of the Stage Two investigation will be communicated in writing.

The Outcome Letter will also give information about: 

  • Your right to take the complaint to the review stage; 
  • The grounds on which you may do so; 
  • The time limit for escalating to the review stage; 
  • The appropriate procedure; 
  • Where and how to access support.

Stage Three: Review

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the Stage Two investigation, you may submit a request that the outcome of your complaint be reviewed.

Students must lodge a request for review within one month of receiving the Stage Two outcome letter. Requests received later than this will not normally be considered. 

Please be aware that a request for review 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. The review stage will not usually consider the issues raised in the Stage Two appeal afresh or involve a further investigation.

The key questions that will be considered are:

  • Were the relevant procedures followed during the formal stage?
  • If new material evidence has been provided, has the student given valid reasons for not supplying this earlier? (we will not always be able to consider evidence that is provided after the investigation has been completed).
  • Was the outcome reasonable in all the circumstances?
  • Has the student received clear reasons why the complaint was rejected at the formal stage?

A complaint must have been considered at the formal stage before it can be escalated to the review stage.

The review will be undertaken by the Appeals & Complaints Office, which will reach a decision regarding its outcome. Alternatively, if the officer conducting the review feels it necessary, a Complaints Committee may be convened. This shall be constituted of a Pro-Warden together with two senior members of the academic staff, none of whom shall have had prior involvement in the case. The decision of the Complaints Committee, which will follow the procedure for the conduct of student hearings, will be the final decision of the College.

The outcome of the review stage will be communicated to you in writing. If you do not accept that outcome and are still unhappy with the decision, a Completion of Procedures Letter (CoP) will also be issued, to let you know that you are entitled to ask the OIA, the independent ombudsman service , to review your complaint about the outcome of the university’s complaints process. The complaint should be submitted to the OIA within twelve months of the date of the Completion of Procedures Letter.

How long does a complaint take to be resolved?

We aim to resolve all complaints within 90 days of submission, though, in practice, this timeline will vary depending on the complexity of the complaint and the number of staff that need to be consulted in the investigation. 

In any event, students will be kept informed of their complaint’s progress, and will be notified if its resolution is likely to take longer than anticipated.

What about confidentiality?

Your complaint will be treated confidentially as far as possible, except where disclosure is necessary to investigate the matters raised. 

Normally we cannot investigate a complaint if you want to remain anonymous. General fairness means that anyone complained about has the right to understand the background so they can respond. It is your right to complain if you are dissatisfied with an aspect of College life and Goldsmiths will respect your right to do so.

If a complaint is made against an individual, they will have the right to be accompanied and/or assisted by another member of Goldsmiths in any related investigation.

Mediation

At any stage in the procedure you can ask to address matters through mediation. Mediation is a method of conflict resolution that brings parties together with a trained mediator to find a solution and is available within the College - details are available on the Mediation pages on our website. For further information students may like to consult Mediation – a guide for students, published by the OIA.

Advice & Support

Students will have the right to be accompanied, assisted or represented by another member of Goldsmiths (a currently enrolled student, or a member of staff of the College, or a member of staff or elected officer of the Students’ Union), at any stage of the Student Complaints Procedure.

Goldsmiths will not enter into discussions about student complaints with third parties without explicit written permission from the student.

You are strongly encouraged to contact the Goldsmiths SU advice service before submitting a complaint. 

Goldsmiths' Wellbeing Service offers support to students who are finding it difficult to engage with their studies. The Service offers email support as well as face-to-face counselling sessions. 

Advice on student appeals and complaints can also be sought from the Appeals & Complaints Office by writing to: appeals (@gold.ac.uk).