Durham SU’s complaints procedure ensures that members of the students’ union who are dissatisfied with services provided can raise a concern and receive an effective remedy. This procedure is consistent with Durham SU’s responsibilities under the Education Act (1994).
The Durham SU Board of Trustees has appointed the Chief Executive to be the senior member of staff responsible for the execution of this statutory complaints procedure. There are separate procedures for addressing specific concerns:
The statutory complaints procedure will be appropriate to consider a complaint that the above procedures have been mismanaged, and such a complaint will be referred directly to stage 4, for independent review by the supervising trustee.
The statutory complaints procedure is not appropriate for matters of student conduct or wellbeing where these are not through dealings with Durham SU services, or such that Durham SU cannot affect a remedy. The Chief Executive will refer concerns of this nature to relevant University procedures and decline to open a complaint investigation.
The statutory complaints procedure is not appropriate for handling complaints raised by students who have opted out of membership, University staff, or members of the public. Durham SU, of course, welcomes feedback and will try to address concerns raised by those who aren’t Durham SU members and who email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Durham SU will accept complaints within 30 working days of the concern by email at email@example.com. The Chief Executive has discretion to accept late complaints in exceptional circumstances. The Complaints Form is the best way to frame a concern.
Durham SU will not accept complaints which are untimely, anonymous, malicious, frivolous, or vexatious. Members are expected to complain personally, and the Chief Executive has discretion to reject complaints made on behalf of another party, or without probable cause.
Durham SU is unable to assist complainants with procedural or pastoral support due to organisational conflict of interest. At formal stages, students have the right to be accompanied to meetings by a fellow member for personal support.
Durham SU welcomes the opportunity to discuss a complaint informally with a concerned member, where possible. The Chief Executive will usually suggest that a complainant have a conversation with the relevant service manager in the first instance, as development of service in response to feedback is often the most efficient form of remedy.
Not all complainants will take this opportunity, and this is understand and accepted. The Chief Executive also has discretion to decide that the complaint is inappropriate to consider in informal discussion and may refer the matter straight to stage 2. Durham SU will not consider participation in informal discussion as material in subsequent stages of complaint.
The Chief Executive will appoint a Durham SU member of staff without an interest in the complaint to conduct an investigation within 10 working days. Collective complaints are not uncommon and similar complaints may be overseen by a single investigator.
The investigator should offer an opportunity to the complainant to discuss their complaint in a face-to-face interview but may proceed without one if necessary. The investigator may conduct further interviews or request correspondence from parties relevant to the complaint, and all Durham SU staff and elected student leaders are expected to fully cooperate.
The investigator will determine findings of fact, consider mitigation, review relevant policies and procedures, and decide on the balance of probabilities whether the complaint should be upheld. If the investigator upholds a complaint, then they should also recommend an effective remedy to the Chief Executive. The complainant should be asked their view on an effective remedy, but this is advisory only and not binding upon the investigator.
The complainant will be advised as the outcome of the complaint investigation and the recommendation of effective remedy. The complainant may only appeal the outcome if they have evidence of either procedural irregularity in Durham SU’s handling of the complaint, or new relevant evidence which was not previously available to the investigator. For the avoidance of doubt, there are no grounds for appeal if the complainant disagrees with the outcome or disagrees with the recommendation of effective remedy.
Durham SU hopes that all complaints will be investigated and resolved at stage 2 within 30 working days. Complex complaints or exceptional circumstances may mean that this target is not met, but the investigator will communicate progress throughout the investigation.
The complainant should submit an appeal within 14 working days of receipt of the complaint outcome, making clear the grounds for appeal. The Chief Executive will appoint a senior member of staff to consider the appeal, who will not reinvestigate the complaint, but will determine within 10 working days:
The subject of a complaint may on occasion be a Durham SU student group or volunteer. For the avoidance of doubt, the subject of a complaint has no right to appeal a complaint outcome but should be asked to comment on a remedy before a recommendation is made if this involves their cooperation.
A remedy is binding once accepted by the Chief Executive.
The Durham University Council will appoint a Durham SU lay trustee to act as an independent person to review complaints following appeal. Their role is not to undertake an investigation, but to assure the effective operation of the statutory complaints procedure and report on the confidence can be placed in the outcome and the effective remedy.
A complainant who has completed stage 3 may ask the Chief Executive to refer their case to the supervising trustee. The supervising trustee may request a conversation with the complainant but may also rely on documentary evidence only.
The supervising trustee may ask the Chief Executive or Durham SU’s legal advisers for professional advice and will aim to complete their review within 10 working days.
The Chief Executive will maintain records of all complaints undertaken using this procedure until 31 July in the following academic year, which is a reasonable time frame for analysis and review. Durham SU’s general data protection policy will govern the use of these records.
The Durham SU Board will receive an annual report on complaints received under this procedure, which will be copied to the University Secretary for assurance purposes and who will relay appropriate matters to University Council.
This statutory complaints procedure is created with the authority of the Board of Trustees. It will be reviewed every 5 years from date of adoption but the annual report is a point of reflection on continuous fitness for purpose.
Durham University’s Council is required to ensure that this procedure exists and is working well; amendments therefore require the agreement of the University.