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Our standards for handling complaints

  • We will handle your complaint fairly, effectively and courteously.
  • We will deal with your complaint promptly. Where we are not able to meet our standard timescales, we will let you know and keep you informed of progress.
  • We will give full and clear reasons for our decisions.
  • We will use the experience and knowledge we gain from dealing with complaints to improve the way the organisation operates. 

What kinds of complaint does this procedure deal with?

You can complain about matters such as:

  • the standard of service we provide
  • the behaviour of our staff
  • whether we have followed the correct procedures in making a decision or taking an action. 

Our complaints procedure does not cover complaints about the merits of a decision or action by HEFCE. 

People sometimes contact us with complaints about things we are unable to help with, for example because they are outside our remit, or because we have other procedures in place to deal with them. For more information, please see the full version of our complaints procedure at the end of this page.

Complaints by university or college students

We do not have any regulatory powers other than those connected to our funding responsibilities. Therefore we are unlikely to be able to help with complaints from individual students about their university or college, although we’ll do our best to advise on who can help with their concerns.

Information for students who wish to make a complaint 

How to make a complaint

Complaints should be made as soon as possible after the occurrence of the event you’re complaining about, and normally within 90 calendar days. In the first instance, it’s best to raise your concerns informally with HEFCE’s Head of Governance (contact details below), who will discuss the possibility of resolving them with you without the need for a formal complaint. 

In order to consider your complaint, whether informally or formally, we’ll need to know:

  • what happened and when, and how it has affected you
  • any relevant supporting evidence (such as e-mails, letters or reports, to supplement any relevant information that we may hold)
  • what you would like us to do to sort things out
  • your contact details (such as address, phone number and/or e-mail address), and how you would prefer us to make contact with you initially. 

Please send this information by e-mailing us at complaints@hefce.ac.uk or by writing to:

Ian Gross
Head of Governance (Complaints)
HEFCE
Nicholson House
Lime Kiln Close
Stoke Gifford
BRISTOL 
BS34 8SR

We will not consider anonymous complaints unless we believe the issues and evidence provided to be significant enough to warrant our own investigation of what happened.

What happens next?

  • We’ll acknowledge receipt of your complaint within seven calendar days. If appropriate, the Head of Governance will try to address your complaint informally, by phoning or writing to you.
  • HEFCE’s Head of Governance will decide whether your complaint falls within this complaints procedure. If it doesn’t, he’ll write to explain why. If it does, he will commission an internal review of your complaint. Please note we may need to contact you to clarify any issues or request further information, before we can consider your complaint.
  • We will then write to you within 30 calendar days with the outcome of the review. If we’re not able to meet this deadline, we’ll write to you to explain why, and tell you when you can expect a response. In our response, we will set out our conclusion and the reasons for it. Where we’ve got something wrong, we’ll explain what we’re going to do to put it right. We’ll let you know what to do if you’re not satisfied with our response.

If you are not satisfied with our response

  • You can write to HEFCE’s Head of Governance (contact details below), explaining why you think that your complaint has not been properly considered, and requesting a second review. You will need to do this within 60 calendar days of our response.
  • If the Head of Governance decides that your request is justified, a second review will be carried out. This may be commissioned from a second reviewer independent of the first reviewer, or, in exceptional circumstances, we may establish a panel chaired by a Board member to carry out the second review.
  • The second review will look at how the first review was carried out – for example, whether there was a failure to properly consider the evidence, or to follow the procedures correctly. It will not consider new evidence nor review the merits of the decision itself.
  • You will receive a response within 30 calendar days. If we’re not able to meet this deadline, we’ll explain why, and tell you when you can expect a response.

If you’re still not satisfied

Once we have advised you that you have come to the end of our complaints process, if you remain dissatisfied you can complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Complaints to the Ombudsman can only be made via your MP. Contact details for the Ombudsman are shown below:

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
LONDON, SW1P 4QP

Complaints Helpline: 0345 015 4033 

For more information, see the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman web-site

You can write to your MP at:

House of Commons
Westminster
LONDON, SW1A 0AA

Find your local MP

Confidentiality

We will treat your complaint in confidence and in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act. If your complaint concerns a HEFCE member(s) of staff, we will in most cases need to speak with them to establish any additional relevant facts.

Trivial, vexatious and unreasonably persistent complaints

We are committed to dealing with all complaints fairly, fully and in a timely manner. Trivial or vexatious complaints will not be pursued, including where they are not significant in terms of our responsibilities. Very occasionally, someone will make a complaint or behave in a way that takes up a disproportionate amount of time and resources, or adversely affects our ability to carry out our business. When this happens, we may need to restrict or discontinue contact with the complainant. This is likely to mean that we will not investigate their complaint, and even if we do, we may not report back to them on the outcome. More information on how we manage these sorts of situations is in the full version of HEFCE’s complaints procedure (see below).

Further information

For more information, please see the full version of HEFCE’s complaints procedure below or contact:

Ian Gross
Head of Governance (Complaints)
HEFCE
Nicholson House
Lime Kiln Close
Stoke Gifford
BRISTOL 
BS34 8SR

tel 0117 931 7169
e-mail complaints@hefce.ac.uk

Full version of our complaints procedure

Download the HEFCE complaints procedure 2016 as PDF (258 KB)

Page last updated 20 October 2016