Your institution will have a policy that sets out how it handles complaints and appeals. This policy should be available to you. You should refer to your institution’s policy for detailed guidance.
On this page you can find information about the general principles your institution and Durham University follow when dealing with:
What is an academic complaint?
If you are registered on a Common Awards programme, you can make a complaint about the academic provision you receive. Matters that you can complain about include (but are not restricted to):
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. There may be other areas of provision or support which could have an impact on your experience of your academic programme and your progress in your studies.
If you raise a complaint your institution can consult with Durham University about whether or not the matter should be considered an academic complaint.
Academic complaints do not include complaints about the admissions process or academic appeals. These are covered by separate policies described below.
What about non-academic complaints?
Your institution will have its own process for non-academic complaints.
There are also separate processes that set out what happens if:
Principles of the academic complaints process
The academic complaints process has 3 stages.
Informal resolution within your institution
Formal resolution within your institution
Review by Durham University
Stages 1 and 2 of the complaints process should take no longer than 8 weeks in total, from the time your institution first receives the complaint. Your institution should keep you up to date about the progress of any complaints process and must tell you if there is any reason why it will take longer than 8 weeks to complete the process.
Your institution’s academic complaints policy should tell you which members of staff to contact at each stage of the process and where you can seek out advice and support during the complaints process.
Complaints must be investigated by someone independent of the source or focus of the complaint. This may be the Principal of your institution, a designated member of staff or a member of your institution’s governing body.
Durham University will ask your institution to conduct an internal review following on from any complaints that reach Stages 2 or 3 to identify whether there are any areas of practice or provision that might be improved.
What is an academic appeal?
An academic appeal is a request from a Common Awards student for the formal review of an academic decision affecting that student. You can appeal the following:
The academic appeal process looks at two factors:
In order to submit an academic appeal you will need to provide evidence of at least one of the following points:
What cannot be the focus of an academic appeal?
You cannot appeal matters of academic judgement. Durham University defines ‘academic judgement’ as the professional and scholarly knowledge and expertise that members of staff at your institution and at the University, as well as external examiners, draw upon in reaching an academic decision.
Matters of academic judgement include (but are not limited to) marks given for individual assessments or modules.
The academic appeals process
In the first instance, you should attempt to resolve matters informally with your institution. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal process, you can submit a formal appeal.
Formal academic appeals are not investigated by your institution. They are submitted directly to the University.
The Common Awards Team will provide you with the form you need to complete to submit an academic appeal.
You should inform your institution that you are submitting a formal appeal.
Appeals must normally be submitted within 21 days of the date on which the decision being appealed was made. Appeals outside this time frame will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.
There are two stages to the formal appeals process:
A student submits a formal appeal after informal options have been exhausted.
You need to state the grounds for the appeal and give detailed reasons and any evidence available that could support your case.
The appeal will be considered by the Chair of the Common Awards Management Board or the Deputy Chair or another member of University staff designated by the Chair.
The member of University staff considering the appeal will contact those who were involved in making the decision that is being appealed, for example, the Chair of your institution’s Board of Examiners, or the Chair of any relevant academic committees. Other staff at your institution may be contacted if further information about the decision-making process is required.
Within 42 days of the appeal being made (normally considerably sooner than this), the member of University staff considering the appeal will produce a brief report setting out whether, having looked at all the information, the appeal is to be upheld or not and the reasons for this decision.
You will then be notified of the outcome of the formal appeal. Your institution will also be notified.
If you are dissatisfied after the completion of Stage 1, you can request that your appeal be referred to the University’s Senate Academic Appeals Committee (SAAC).
You must request this within 14 days of receiving notification of the outcome of Stage 1 of the formal appeals process. The Common Awards Team at the University will supply you with the form you need to complete to do this.
Your request for your appeal to be referred to SAAC must be based on at least one of the following grounds:
The SAAC will consider an appeal referred to them and communicate with you about the progress of your appeal within 28 days. You can find out more about this process in Durham University’s detailed guidance on academic appeals.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of Stage 2, once this stage is complete you may refer your case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). The OIA is an independent body set up to review student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales.
What are the possible outcomes?
If an academic appeal is upheld it will normally be sent back for reconsideration by the body that made the original decision (for example, your institution’s Board of Examiners could be asked to look at their decision again in light of the findings of the appeal process). This does not necessarily mean that the original decision will be reversed or altered. Normally marks for work will only be changed if there was an error in recording or processing them.
Either at the informal stage or at Stage 1, you may be advised that, rather than pursuing an appeal, the matter can be dealt with through another process, such as applying for a concession or submitting a request for Serious Adverse Circumstances to be considered at your institution’s next Board of Examiners. This will depend upon your individual circumstances.
Each Theological Education Institution has its own admissions policy and process and its own admissions complaints procedure.
Durham University sets minimum entry requirements for admission to academic programmes, which institutions must follow. For a number of programmes, these minimum requirements recognise that professional and ministerial experience can stand in lieu of formal academic qualifications. Institutions can choose to set higher entry requirements that go beyond the entry requirements set by the University if there is a clear rationale for doing so.
Institutions can ask Durham University for advice about their admissions processes.
In addition to academic entry requirements, there will also be other elements to each institution’s admissions process, since this process often concerns not only admission to an academic programme but also admission to a particular training pathway.
You should refer to an institution’s admissions policy for detailed information.
What is an admissions complaint?
An admissions complaint is a complaint about a procedural error, irregularity or mal-administration in admissions policies or processes.
When making admissions decisions, staff in theological education institutions will exercise academic judgement. You cannot appeal or complain about an admissions decision on the basis that you disagree with this academic judgement.
You can complain if you have evidence:
What should you expect from a Theological Education Institution?
All theological education institutions should:
Institutions should also make applicants aware of their right to refer admissions complaints to Durham University if the applicant is still dissatisfied after the formal complaint process has been followed.
Institutions must not discriminate against applicants who make admissions complaints if they go on to submit another application in the future.
Principles of the admissions complaints procedure
The principles of the admissions complaints procedure are the same as the principles of the academic complaints procedure, as outlined on this page. You should ask an institution directly for information about how their admissions complaints procedure operates.
Note that the Office for the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) does not consider admissions complaints. Applicants do not have the option to refer an admissions complaint to the OIA at the end of the complaints procedure.
As in the academic complaints procedure, applicants should raise a complaint no more than 28 days after the event that the complaint concerns unless there is a good reason for the delay.
An institution’s admissions complaints procedure must follow the three stages outlined in the academic complaints procedure: (1) Informal Resolution (2) Formal Resolution (3) Referral to Durham University for Review.
In all cases, the institution, and (where a complaint reaches stage 3) the University, will be examining whether admissions policies and processes were fair, transparent and were followed correctly, without significant errors or omissions.
If a procedural irregularity is identified at any stage of the complaints process, the theological education institution concerned is expected to review the matter, including looking again at the admissions decision. Whilst the review should address any irregularities it will not necessarily reverse or otherwise change the admissions decision.
Durham University also asks theological education institutions to consider their admissions processes as a whole in light of any complaints to see whether there are any possible areas for improvement.