Guidance on Major Disruption complaints


This advice has been specifically written regarding any disruption on student programmes of study from both the  UCU Strikes and the move on online teaching following the Covid -19 outbreak in March 2020.

 

Students may feel the that the disruption caused by the UCU strikes and the move to online teaching has affected their programme of studies and they are not happy that they are being charged the full fees for the academic year. Students who wish to raise this issue as a complaint can do so by using the Major Disruption Complaints Procedure. Guidance on this can be found here.
 

If you would like support from an Adviser, please contact the Advice Team suadvice@gre.ac.uk or fill in the online contact form.

 

On this page:

Click titles to see each section

> About the Greenwich Students' Union (GSU) Advice Service

> Greenwich Students’ Union has voted to back the strike action. How can it provide independent advice?

> How can we assist you in making a complaint?

> Step by step guide to address industrial action related concerns

 

About the Greenwich Students' Union (GSU) Advice Service

GSU Advice is an independent source of advice at Greenwich. We provide free, confidential and impartial advice to all students, including advice on making complaints.

We have provided some impartial guidance below on the current industrial action at Greenwich for students who feel they have been affected.

You will note that we do not use the term “strike” on this page as it is important to consider that the action taken by University and Colleges Union (UCU) does not end with the strike. Your studies could be disrupted beyond the strike action.

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Greenwich Students’ Union has voted to back the strike action. How can it provide independent advice?

The Office for the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) recommends that while some Students’ Unions may be sympathetic to the industrial action, they consider having provision for some members of staff to take a neutral position

While GSU Students’ Union Officers back the strike action, our Advisors do not have an opinion or position on the strike action, and we are neutral in this matter.

GSU Advice Team can advise on a wide range of topics and they are independent, impartial and non-judgemental when providing advice.

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How can we assist you in making a complaint?

Whilst we can’t complete a complaints form for you. We are here to advise on how to write complaints, what you may want to consider, and we are happy to check drafts.

Writing a complaint need not take long, but it must be based on your own specific circumstances.

If you would like support from an Adviser, please contact the Advice Team suadvice@gre.ac.uk or fill in the online contact form.

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Step by step guide to addressing major disruption  related concerns

Click each title for guidance and information.

Before considering any action, such as making a complaint, it is very important to log how your studies have been affected. If you do need to make a complaint later then this will form part of your evidence.

We advise that you keep a short note of each time the industrial action has affected your studies. This could be on a piece of paper, in your phone, or a spreadsheet.

  • The date

  • What was affected (e.g. seminar, lecture, revision session, supervision session, personal tutoring etc)

  • A short note of any concerns you have about how this could affect your studies (e.g. material might arise on an exam, or in coursework, learning needed for professional placement)

  • If the disruption has cost, you in some way then keep evidence of this. This could be travel costs, or a paid notetaker from your DSA, for example.

 

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The strike will take place between 25th February - 20th March. The strike could go on until July as the union has an option to strike for a further six days.

Until this initial strike has completed, it will be too early for you to start any complaint process. You will not be clear about the whole impact of the strike until it is finished.

UCU members will also be “working to contract” or “working to rule”. This will mean the full impact of industrial action will stretch into 2020. We are not suggesting you wait this long to complain, but only for the strike to finish.

In the meanwhile, ensure you are following step one.

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If you have had lectures cancelled or your studies have been affected in some other way, you are unlikely to be the only one in your cohort to be affected. We can help and support you to come together to make a complaint collectively. This is known as a group complaint. There is the ability to be able to respond quickly and consistently to student complaints where students affected in the same way set out their concerns together.

You do not have to complain collectively, we can also advise individuals. All you have to do is speak to your classmates. If you agree that you would like to make a complaint together, nominate one person to act as the “lead complainant”. We would recommend that you email suadvice@gre.ac.uk so they can receive direct support from an Adviser.

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The idea of resolving a complaint is to put you back in the position you were in had the issue not occurred. Faculties will be seeking to mitigate the impact of the industrial action as much as possible. If you have not heard from your Faculty about how the impact of the strike is being mitigated, then you should contact your programme leader. You should provide your list of missed sessions from step one. You do need to be realistic about what GSU can do. For example, some classes may be rescheduled later in the year or delivered in other formats. This could be through additional guided reading or recordings of previously delivered classes. If any alternative arrangements do not meet your needs (i.e. as a disabled student) then you should make this clear to the School and ask what adjustments can be put in place. If you are not satisfied with the response (or you receive no response within a reasonable timeframe) then you should move to the next step

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This should normally be done within 2 months of becoming aware of the issue you wish to complain about. This can be the last event in a chain of events and is not necessarily the first issue to arise.

For example, it is possible that you don’t feel that you have been affected until a missed session is not rescheduled, or you receive your results. The 2 months would start from this point.

This complaint should be written to your programme leader and can take the form of an email. If your programme leader is unavailable, then you should escalate to the Head of Department and then to the Director of Student Experience You should include:

  • An introduction to your concerns.

  • Your list of missed sessions and other information as per step 1 above.

  • How you feel your studies have been affected.

  • Concerns about whether your assessments have been, or will be, affected. List the assessments 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?

  • You should clearly and realistically outline what you believe the University can do to resolve this issue.

Don't forget to attach any supporting evidence you have to your email.

If you want advice on your draft, then we are happy to provide this. Please email suadvice@gre.ac.uk

Please bear in mind that our normal response time is up to three working days. This can be longer during busy periods.

Once you have your outcome, if you remain dissatisfied or wish to seek compensation, then you will need to escalate the matter to Stage 2 of the process.

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If it has not been possible to reach an acceptable informal resolution during, it is possible to begin a more formal process.

This allows for further and more structured investigation and is described under Stage 2 of the Student Complaints Procedure.

For a complaint to be considered at Stage 2, you would need to complete the Formal complaints from https://docs.gre.ac.uk/rep/sas/student-complaints-procedure

This complaint form should be submitted within 3 months from the last correspondence which has left you dissatisfied.

The University will consider any requests for refunds of tuition fees as a result of the impact of the industrial action. However, you will need to clearly demonstrate why the School’s initial response is not satisfactory and/or the ongoing detriment to your studies.

Most students do not study at higher education providers purely to gain a qualification. Other things are important to them too, such as attending lectures and seminars led by academics.

If a considerable amount of teaching time has been cancelled and:

  • The learning outcomes modules are not or cannot be delivered in full

  • Key elements of the Programme as promised before you started the course are not delivered

  • Key elements of the course, or modules are not delivered to expected standards

Then you may wish to request compensation. You would need to provide clear evidence of the above, like the informal stage of complaint.

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Section 1 – Details. This is self-explanatory complete list all your details.

Section 2 – Complaint summary. When summarising your complaint, you only need a brief description making clear that you are complaining about the impact of industrial 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.

Section 3 –Documented Evidence – What evidence do you have to support your complaint (email correspondence?)

Section 4 - Previous Actions – You should briefly summarise what you have done so far to try and resolve this complaint. Who you have spoken to during the informal stage and what prevented the complaint from being resolved? 

Section 5 - Your Preferred Outcome. This is where you ask for exactly what you want. You should consider:

  • 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 later? Are their equivalent short courses you feel should be offered later? 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.

  • For any amount you request, you should consider then reducing this number by 50% to consider that higher education providers must provide and maintain buildings, IT and library facilities, wellbeing and other student support and administration. This is the approach taken by the OIA when awarding compensation/fee refunds for industrial action.

 

Section 6 – Student Declaration. This section is self-explanatory.

 

Submitting the Complaints Form. The complaints form along with any accompanying evidence should be submitted to the student campus that you are studying at.

What happens next?

You will receive a letter of acknowledgement and be informed that the investigation into your complaint is about to start. An Investigation Officer will be appointed to carry out the Stage 1 investigation and will contact you if they need more information. The Investigation Officer will write to you and let you know where within the University your complaint has been sent for consideration. You can expect a response within 20 working days explaining the results of the Stage 1 investigation.

What will the reply say?

If your complaint is well-founded or partially founded, you will be offered an apology or other redress if appropriate and the University will explain the measures to be put in place to ensure the situation is not repeated. If your complaint is deemed be unfounded a full explanation will be provided. Guidelines for the Resolution of your Complaint (Student Complaints Procedure) 2017

What if I don't like the result?

You will be invited to respond to the outcome of the Stage 1 investigation. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you can request a review of the decision by submitting a Formal Complaint Stage 1 Review Form. Please be aware that your request must fall within the permitted grounds to seek a review, you must give sound reasons as to why you think the Stage 1 investigation has been unfair or inadequate. Simply not liking the result of the investigation will not be sufficient reason for the review to go ahead.

What form will the stage 2 review of my case file take?

Within 15 working days of receipt of the Formal Complaint Stage 1 Review Form, the Head of Academic Registry will review all the documentation gathered as a part of your complaint to determine whether you may put your case to the University Complaints Committee. Further evidence may be requested at this stage.

What happens next?

The outcome of the Stage 2 review will find either:

  • that there are no grounds for taking the matter further - if this is the case, the Head of Academic Registry will write to you and inform you of your right to request a final review of the outcome of the complaint procedure under the Final Review Procedure, or

  • that there are grounds for consideration and further investigation. If this is the case, an independent University Complaints Committee will be convened to consider your complaint.

 

What can I expect from the committee stage?

The committee will consist of the Chair, a Deputy Vice-Chancellor or nominee, a member of the Student Experience Committee from a non-related faculty or office, or a senior representative from a non-related faculty or office, and a representative from the Students' Union Sabbatical Officers. A Secretary will be appointed to arrange the meeting and will take the notes. You may bring a companion with you who may advocate for you, maybe a representative from the Students' Union, a friend or parent, providing this person is not connected to the complaint but this may not be a legal professional or someone receiving payment to attend.

You will present your case and then you will be invited to stay while the University Faculty or Office considers the case and you will be offered the opportunity to respond to questions. The Committee will then confer in private and you will be sent their decision in writing with a full explanation as to how they reached this conclusion. What can I expect the University to do if my case is well founded? The University will apologise for any mistake that it has made and try to ensure this does not happen in future. Each case will be looked at on its merits and a range of outcomes is possible, but the University will always try to achieve resolution. Guidelines for the Resolution of your Complaint (Student Complaints Procedure) 2017.

What can I expect at the end of the formal complaints procedure?

You will get a letter summarising the outcome of the formal complaints process, which could be at one of several of the above stages depending on the findings. You will be informed of your right to request a final review of the outcome of the complaint procedure under the Final Review Procedure.

Final Review Procedure Requests for a final review must be made in writing to the Director of Student & Academic Services within 15 working days from the date of notification of the formal outcome imposed on the Request for Final Review Form, which is available to download via the Student Portal. Full details of the Final Review Procedure can be found on the ‘Student regulations, policies and procedures’ pages of the University website.

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Independent Adjudication After you receive a Completion of Procedures letter from the University you may wish to further your complaint with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), the independent body set up by the government to adjudicate on disputes in higher education institutions. You will be given details of how to do this in your Completion of Procedures letter.

Any referral to the OIA must be within twelve months of the date of the Completion of Procedures letter. The OIA have a bespoke Strike Action Complaint Form which you can find on their website. You can make a complaint to the OIA as a group. Again, we can assist you in making a complaint to the OIA.

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If any alternative arrangements do not meet your needs as a disabled student, then you should make this clear to the School as soon as possible and ask what adjustments can be put in place. If you are not satisfied with the outcome or feel you have been disproportionately impacted by the industrial action, then consider raising a complaint following the above guidance.

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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.

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