Appendix 8: Junior Members’ Complaints and Appeals Procedure

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Introduction

  1. Merton College 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.
  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 (e.g. award of prizes, tutorial arrangements)
  3. Typically, complaints will refer to isolated incidents and the provision of services by the College. The College has separate procedures for complaints about individuals which involve harassment (e.g. bullying, victimisation, racial or sexual harassment), detailed in the College Handbook. This policy does not apply to appeals against the outcome of a general or academic or disciplinary procedure. These have their own procedures set out in Bylaws XIA and XIB.
  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). This procedure also details how appeals can be made. A flowchart illustrates the various stages of the process (see below).
  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.
  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.

Informal Procedure:

  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 academic matters: the Senior Tutor or Dean of Graduates depending on the status of the junior member
    • for issues involving domestic College staff and services e.g. food and accommodation and related financial matters; security; maintenance; computing: the Domestic Bursar
    • for financial matters: the Finance Bursar
    • other behavioural and general disciplinary matters: the Principal of the Postmasters
    • for matters pertaining to the Library: the Librarian
    • for matters pertaining to sports facilities: the Senior Treasurer of the Amalgamated Clubs
    • for welfare matters: the Chaplain
    • for complaints about a College Officer: the Sub-Warden
  2. In case of doubt about the appropriate College Officer the Senior Tutor will advise.
  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 College.
  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.
  5. The outcome may involve instigation of action under another College procedure.

Formal Procedure:

  1. All formal complaints must be made in writing to the Warden, or the Sub-Warden in the Warden’s absence. 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 Warden 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.
  2. If a formal complaint is taken forward, the Warden will convene an ad hoc committee of not less than three members of the Governing Body, not including the student’s tutor(s) or college adviser to hear the complaint. All those chosen will be bound by the requirements of confidentiality. The ad hoc committee will be free to invite a representative of the appropriate Common Room Committee to the hearing. The role of the representative will be to provide a student perspective to inform the committee’s decision.
  3. The complainant may take advice in advance of the hearing and may be adequately represented at the hearing itself, being given the chance either to make a written submission, or, if they prefer, to appear before the committee. The complainant may, in the latter case, be accompanied by a member of college. Along with the complainant and their representative, the tutor(s) and any member of staff involved in the presentation of the case against the complaint will withdraw before a decision is made. The committee’s decision will be conveyed in writing to the Governing Body. The committee’s written decision will include all the relevant facts. A copy of it will be given to the complainant.

Conference of Colleges Appeals Tribunal:

  1. If a complaint remains unresolved after the College's internal procedures have been exhausted a junior member may appeal to the Conference of Colleges’ Appeals Tribunal, of which Merton is a member. The student should file such an appeal with the Secretariat of the Conference of Colleges within five days of the ad hoc Committee’s determination. Information on the procedure for applying to the Tribunal is available from the Merton College Academic Office. On completing consideration of a complaint, the Tribunal will issue its decision and this concludes the College procedures for the formal examination of a complaint.

Office of the Independent Adjudicator:

  1. If a complaint remains unresolved after the CCAT procedures have been exhausted a student may ask for the complaint to be reviewed by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. Application forms and guidance notes are available from the Academic Office. Please note that complaints relating to student discipline and academic matters are also within the scope of the OIAHE. However, complaints relating to matters of academic judgement (i.e. about academic performance or admissions) cannot be dealt with by the OIAHE.

Monitoring Arrangements

  1. The Warden’s Office will keep a register of the number of complaints made using the formal procedure in an academic year, and a summary of numbers and outcomes will be collected submitted to the Governing Body, along with recommendations for any action required in response to the issues identified in complaints. The register will indicate how many formal complaints have been registered and what stage they reached (categorised into resolved by the Committee, recommendation to Governing Body in favour of the complainant or not in favour of the complainant, appeal to Conference Tribunal).

[Adopted Trinity Term 2012]

Complaints Flowchart

Complaints Flowchart