E. Complaints Procedure

1. Introduction

1.1       Harris Manchester fosters a sense of community in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected. It is grateful for feedback from its members and it takes seriously complaints about any aspect of its operation. Wherever possible, the College endeavours to resolve complaints promptly and locally.

1.2       The Complaints and Appeals Procedure outlined below is intended to be followed in cases of disagreement with regard to:

  • Domestic matters (e.g. accommodation and services, including catering)
  • Financial matters (e.g. battels for fees and domestic charges, student support)
  • Academic Matters
  • Any other matters excluding complaints about students made under Annex A of the Harassment Policy and complaints about staff made under Annex B of the Harassment Policy
  • The College also fully subscribes to the University’s policy on Equal Opportunities set out here http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/policy/equality-policy/.  Any complaints internal to the College on the grounds of discrimination by race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, marital status or any other protected characteristic will be dealt with in line with the relevant University policies insofar as they are applicable.
  • In rare cases where the person or persons to be complained about are clearly breaking the law (for example, violent or threatening behaviour, the consumption or provision of banned substances) it may be most appropriate for the complaint to be dealt with by the Police. Whenever practicable, however, the complaint should first be referred to an appropriate member of College staff (e.g., the Dean or Junior Dean) before the Police are contacted.

1.3       Typically, complaints will refer to isolated incidents and the provision of services by the College. This policy does not apply to appeals against the outcome of a general or academic or disciplinary procedure, which are dealt with according to the procedure set out in Section G.

1.4       The majority of cases will normally be settled by the complainant resolving their grievance directly with the relevant tutor or college staff member or departmental manager. Where this has been attempted and resolution is not possible, complainants can adopt an informal procedure (described in section 2 below), but a formal procedure is also available where a complainant wishes to register a written grievance (described in section 3 below).  Details of appeal from this formal procedure are set out in Section G.

1.5       Anonymous complainants or complaints made on behalf of someone else will not be considered, unless there are compelling reasons for doing so. Such reasons should be clearly stated.

1.6       Disciplinary action may be taken against anyone who victimises or retaliates against a student who brings a complaint in good faith, and against any student who brings malicious or vexatious complaints.

2. Informal Procedure

2.1   Under the informal procedure, the junior member is asked to raise his or her complaint with the relevant College Officers. The relevant College Officers are as follows:

for issues involving domestic College staff and services e.g. food and accommodation and related financial matters; security; maintenance: the Domestic Bursar

for financial and computing matters: the Domestic Bursar

other behavioural and general disciplinary matters: the Dean

for matters pertaining to the Library: the Librarian

for welfare matters: the Chaplain 

for complaints about a College Officer: the Principal

for academic matters: the Senior Tutor or Tutor for Graduates depending on the status of the junior member

2.2       In case of doubt about the appropriate College Officer the Senior Tutor will advise.

2.3       This informal procedure is intended to encourage discussion and understanding of the problem, and in some cases, may lead to its resolution without submission of a formal complaint. The complainant can be accompanied at any stage of the informal procedure by another member of the College.

2.4       To resolve the complaint the relevant Officer will normally arrange a meeting with the complainant and:

seek to offer helpful and confidential advice and/or

try to find a remedy, or a reconciliation (in cases where relations have broken down between individuals, and the complainant does not object to this course).

note the withdrawal of a complaint where the complainant decides to do so.

record the outcome in a written response to the complainant.

2.5       The outcome may involve instigation of action under another College procedure set out in this Part.

3.  Formal Procedure

3.1       All formal complaints must be made in writing to the Principal.  The formal procedure will normally be used only when the informal procedure has not achieved a resolution. In cases where the complainant has adopted the formal approach immediately, it will be open to the Principal to refer the complaint back to an earlier stage in this process. Formal complaints will not normally considered three months after the occasion of the complaint or in cases when the matter is being addressed under another College procedure set out in this Part.

3.2       If a formal complaint is taken forward, the Principal will convene an ad hoc Complaints Committee of not less than three members of the Governing Body, not including the Supervising or Subject Tutor(s)/College Adviser/Supervisor of the student, to hear the complaint. The Principal will also appoint one committee member as chair.    The Complaints Committee will proceed as follows:

3.2.2 The Complaints Committee will be free to invite a representative of the appropriate Common Room (JCR or MCR) Committee to the hearing. The role of the representative will be to provide a student perspective to inform the Complaints Committee’s decision.

3.2.3         The complainant will be given 3 working days’ notice in writing of the hearing of the Complaints Committee (although the hearing may go ahead earlier by agreement between the student and the Chair). Such notice will include information about the time and place of the hearing and the composition of the Complaints Committee.

3.2.4         The complainant may take advice in advance of the hearing and may make representations to the Complaints Committee, either in writing or by appearing before the Complaints Committee in person or by electronic link. S/he can be represented by any current member of the College, senior or junior (except the Senior Tutor or any tutor who has taught him/her), or a representative of OUSU, or may ask the Principal to appoint a member of the Governing Body to represent him/her.   Any such representative may speak at the hearing on behalf of the complainant.

3.2.5         The hearing may proceed if the complainant fails to attend as notified, or to make a submission.

3.2.6         Any member of the college staff may present the case against the complaint to the Complaints Committee.

3.2.7         If the complaint concerns the conduct of any member of the college staff he/she will be allowed to address the Complaints Committee and to be represented.

3.2.8         The hearing shall be conducted in a fair way in accordance with the principles of natural justice.   The chair of the Complaints Committee shall decide the procedure to be followed, in the light of these principles.

3.2.9         It shall be the duty of the Complaints Committee to establish all relevant facts, to take account of all evidence brought and submissions made by the complainant and/or the complainant’s representative, and any evidence brought and submissions made by any member of college staff to whom the complaint relates, and to decide what sanction to recommend, bearing in mind the interests of the College and of the student or member of staff;

3.2.10       Having considered the matter, the Complaints Committee will agree its decision by vote.

3.2.11      The Complaints Committee’s decision will be conveyed in writing to the Governing Body. The written decision will include all the relevant facts. A copy of it will be given to the complainant.

4.  Appeals

The complainant may appeal against the decision of the Complaints Committee under the College Appeals Procedure set out in Section G.  Details of any external appeal mechanisms available to the student are also in Section G.