City Students’ Union guidance for strike related complaints
As your Students’ Union we understand that some of you are unhappy with the impact the recent strikes have had on your student experience.
We have provided some impartial guidance below on what to do if you are considering submitting a complaint.
We can’t complete a complaints form for you or provide a template because you have to write the complaint yourself based on your own specific circumstances. But don’t worry it’s easy and won’t take long because it’s not an essay where you are marked on the quality. Just get the key points of your complaint down. You can even use bullet points to make your points clear if you think that is easier.
Our step by step guide for making a strike related complaint
1. Refund or Compensation. Understand what City’s position is likely to be in relation to any complaint you wish to make. On their Strike FAQ page, City state students are not entitled to a fee refund but they may consider claims for financial compensation “where students can clearly demonstrate extreme and detrimental disruption to their studies”. Therefore, if you ask for a refund the answer is almost certain to be no but if you ask for compensation the University will consider your circumstances.
2. The criteria for compensation. What will be considered an extreme and detrimental disruption to your studies? If only a few lectures/tutorials were affected and/or reasonable arrangements were made to minimise the impact, City are likely to be unwilling to compensate you. This of course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, students are entitled to submit a complaint to express dissatisfaction about any aspect of their student experience. So if you are unhappy you have the right to complain and request compensation if you feel that is appropriate.
3. Deadline for complaining. “A student who is, or was recently a registered student, or a group of students wishing to complain should normally do so within 28 days of the event which has given rise to the complaint or, if a series of events has given rise to a complaint, within 28 days of the final event in the series”. The key part is the final event in the series. This means that it could be argued the 28 deadline for a complaint could begin from the date of last impact on a student’s studies as a result of the strikes. It could also be argued it was not clear what impact the strikes would have had on your studies at the time they occurred. Therefore, you should still submit a complaint form even if you think you may have missed the deadline.
4. How to complain. For compensation requests you will need to skip Stage 1 of the complaints process and complete a Stage 2 complaint form which needs to be sent to the Head of Academic Services in your School.
5. Completing the complaints form. Remember it’s not an essay but you do need to provide some brief details of what happened, how this has had a significant and detrimental impact on you and what you are asking for in return from the School. In other words why you feel you should receive compensation and what amount you feel is appropriate.
6. What to write in the different sections of the complaints form:
Section 1 – Details. This is self-explanatory complete list all your details.
Section 2 – Complaint summary. You can submit your complaint as an individual or as a group complaint. If you are complaining on behalf of your cohort or programme you need to make clear it is a group complaint. When summarising your complaint you only need a brief description such “I’m/We are requesting compensation in relation to the extreme and detrimental disruption to my/our studies were experienced as a result of the strike action.
If there are any other aspects of your student experience that have been affected due to the strikes you would also briefly mention this here.
Keep it brief as you will provide more details in Section 3.
Section 3 – Background. This is where you explain what happened and why you believe the strike action caused extreme and detrimental impact on your studies and overall student experience has been affected and the impact it had on you.
Information to include:
- List each module affected.
- Teaching/tutorials cancelled and how many hours lost.
- Have or will any assessments be affected? If yes list them and explain what has happened. For examples were deadlines not postponed or extended sufficiently?
- Was any feedback not provided on time or yet to be provided?
- Were you not able to meet or contact supervisors?
- If there is any teaching or content set out in the course prospectus that will no longer be delivered you may wish to express your dissatisfaction at not receiving this if it was a significant factor in choosing your programme.
- If you are not happy with your department’s attempt to mitigate the impact on your studies you could also mention this and explain why you think the steps they have taken are not enough.
- Refer to any evidence such as emails received from your department about cancellations of lessons or changes that have had to be made due to the strike action.
- If you have any other evidence that relates to the impact or inconveniences caused you should mention that: these may or may not include:
- not feeling comfortable about crossing the picket lines.
- Late cancellation of teaching after travelling to university and incurring travel costs/inconvenience incurred attending university only to be informed classes were missing?
- Don’t forget to attach any supporting evidence you have to your complaint form.
Ultimately, you need to explain how all of this caused “an extreme and detrimental impact” on your studies and student experience.
The more detail you provide the more likely the University will be able to understand the impact the strike(s) had on you.
Section 4 - Previous Actions – If you have sent any previous emails about this matter you could refer to them in this section. Otherwise just write you were informed to complete a stage 2 complaint form as the first step to requesting compensation.
Section 5 - Your Preferred Outcome. This is where you ask for exactly what you want.
- Working out what you want for compensation is the hard part. We can’t tell you what to ask for because this is about your own circumstances.
- Do you want financial compensation or extra/different learning opportunities to make up for teaching lost and/or other contact that was lost?
- If asking for additional or other learning opportunities. State clearly what you want. For example do you want to be able to be offered the chance to receive key course content/opportunities from your module/programme that you missed at a later date? Are their equivalent short courses you feel should be offered at a later date? If so make this clear and list any relevant courses or module content.
- If asking for financial compensation, a good starting point could be to work out from the fees paid for the term, how much you may have paid for the module(s) affected etc. You could then factor in any measures taken by your department to reduce the impact before deciding what amount you consider to be appropriate compensation. You may also wish to consider if you have evidence of any unexpected additional costs incurred directly as a result from the circumstances of the strike action and/or the measures taken by the university to reduce the impact.
- However, it should be noted that tuition fees are also likely to be considered by universities as payment to cover costs associated with the operation of the university including access to facilities and services that are provided to students rather than just for teaching so you should also factor that into whatever you decide is the appropriate amount it would take to compensate you and leave you satisfied.
Section 6 – Student Declaration and Checklist. This section is self-explanatory.
7. Submitting the Complaints Form. The complaints form along with any accompanying evidence should to be submitted to the Head of Academic Services in your School:
8. What happens next. Your School should acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 7 days and provide you with an outcome within a further 21 days. If you do not receive a response within this timeframe you may wish to email to ask for an update on your complaint.
If you are not satisfied with your School’s decision. You can ask for a Stage 3 University/Institutional level review of the decision within 21 days of the School’s decision. More information on this can be found on our website.
Following a Stage 3 University/Institutional level review, you would receive a Completion of Procedures (CoP) letter from City. At this point, a student who is dissatisfied with the final decision concerning their case may be able to complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) for a review of the case. More information about the OIA can be found here: www.oiahe.org.uk.
9. Helpful sources of information.
- City’s FAQ and information on strikes can be found here.
- CULSU website and guidance on the complaints process can be found here.
- Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) – Briefing note on strikes can be found here.
- Office for Students Guidance can be found here.