Unfortunately, sometimes university isn’t all plain sailing. Whether you experience issues affecting your academic work or your wider university experience, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There’s plenty you can do to resolve the problem, and we’ve outlined your options below.

What can I complain about?

There are no restrictions on what you can and can’t complain to the University about. Examples of complaints made by students include:

  • dissatisfaction with academic provision such as teaching, supervision or resources provided
  • problems with a University service such as accommodation or another administrative service
  • issues with a member of University staff


We would always recommend speaking to the relevant staff member informally, before resorting to a formal complaint. In most cases, the University should be able to resolve your issue and will be happy to do so. You can find more advice on an informal resolution below. If you have tried this already, and are still feeling unhappy about something, you can find the University’s formal complaints procedure here.


It is expected that you will have tried to resolve your issue on an informal basis and your complaint may not be considered if there is no evidence that you have tried to do so. When you raise an informal complaint, you need to find the relevant person to explain your issue to.

If you have a complaint about an academic issue, it is best to approach your academic adviser or another trusted person in your department to raise the issue. If you have a general complaint about the way you are being taught on certain modules, or with your teaching and assessment, you could also consider approaching your course representative.

If your complaint is about another service within the University, you should first ask them whether they have an internal complaints procedure, or who you should contact with your complaint.

It is best to keep records of any informal process that you follow. If you have meetings or telephone conversations regarding the issue, follow them up with an email confirming what was said and agreed. This will be your evidence if you decide to take the matter further. If you are worried about approaching your department or a service on an informal basis, we would be happy to talk the issues over with you first, and may be able to also attend any meetings with you.


To make a formal complaint, you will need to complete the University’s complaints form, which can be found here. You will need to fill out each section within the word limits, and attach any additional evidence you have.

The University will usually expect you to raise complaints within 28 days of the issue arising, but will consider complaints outside of this period if you have good reason for the delay. The 28 days can also start from the end of any informal procedure you have been following to resolve the issue.

On the form you will need to:

  • Summarise the grounds for your complaint. It can be useful to include any University regulations that you feel have been broken as a result of your complaint. You should give specific examples of what happened (e.g. instead of just saying a staff member was rude to you, explain exactly what they said or did).
  • Provide a full account of events. Be concise – producing a timeline can be a useful way of providing clear information. Be as specific as possible about the dates and people involved, and if possible, include supporting evidence such as witness statements.
  • Explain how you believe the issue has affected you. You may have suffered financially, academically, emotionally or your health may have suffered. It is important to provide evidence to back your claim.
  • Include the outcome or solution you are seeking. This needs to be realistic and proportionate to the complaint.

what happens next?

If you are unhappy with the outcome, you will have a further right of review and must write to the Academic Registrar within ten days of any formal notification you receive. They can be contacted here:

If you are still unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you have a further right to complain through the Office of Independent Adjudication, which you must do within twelve months of your final decision. You can visit their website for more information.


Only registered students can complain. This means you can make a complaint up to your graduation date, but not after that date. If you do want to complain after graduation, you will have to have exceptional circumstances for not raising the issue before.


Depending on the nature of your issue, the general complaints procedure may not actually be the most appropriate regulation to follow. There are multiple different University procedures and regulations now in place to be able to most effectively deal with student issues and concerns. Please see the below list for some options:

Harassment, discrimination and bullying [+]

If you feel you have been a victim of harassment or bullying, and wish to complain to the University about this, there is a separate code of practice to follow (including information on how to make a complaint) through their Respect at Study policy available here.

For more information on reporting and support, visit our Sexual Violence, Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying section.

Academic appeals [+]

If you want to complain about your academic results, then you need to follow the academic appeals procedure, which you can find here.

You can find more guidance and advice on this procedure on our Academic Appeals page.

Sexual violence or harassment [+]

If you want to make a complaint about an incident of sexual violence or misconduct, the University have a dedicated procedure administered by the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Team. You can find more information on this here.

For more information on reporting and support, visit our Sexual Violence, Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying section.

Public interest disclosure [+]

It may be that you want to disclose information of public interest about wrongful conduct of the University, a University employee, service user or third party ('Whistleblowing'). To do this, you should refer to the University’s Public Interest Disclosure Procedure, available here.

Freedom of expression [+]

You may have a complaint or concern about freedom of expression within the University or SU. If this is the case, then it is best to look at the University’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Expression here.

Serious complaints [+]

There may also be circumstances where your situation is so serious that a standard procedure is not appropriate. In these instances, students are able to write directly to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) without having followed an informal procedure. They can be contacted on If you are in doubt about your situation, please contact our Advice Service and we will be happy to discuss the matter with you.

UCU strike [+]

If you feel your studies have been impacted by the recent industrial action, the Office for Students (OfS) has produced some guidance as to what students can do. We have summarised this guidance and suggested routes you can take on our UCU Strike page.

What if my complaint relates to Durham SU?

If you want to complain about matters concerning Durham Students’ Union, please follow our own complaints procedure, available here.

Page last reviewed: 11/03/2019