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Our complaints procedure

If you have a concern about an aspect of your student experience at Sussex, you can let us know. See the options available, including our complaints procedure.

Raising your concerns

Your views are important. You may wish to contact us to address any concerns you have.

Submitting a complaint is one option but other options are available.

You could try:

We encourage you to consider all options.

Another approach, such as mediation, might give you a better outcome.

What can be considered as a complaint

Our student complaints procedure may be able to address your concerns.

It covers the following areas:

  • the delivery of teaching and supervision
  • a non-academic University service, such as a front desk
  • information in a handbook or promotional material
  • facilities, such as buildings on campus
  • the conduct of a member of University staff.

Important: You can only use this procedure for something that happened to you as a current student. If you’re alumni or a member of the public, see our complaints procedure for the public.

If your concern relates to the outcome of an assessment, find out about the academic appeals process.

Time limits

You should make your complaint immediately – typically within 15 working days of the event that has caused concern. If you’re complaining about a series of related events, contact us after the final event.

Additionally, there are time limits beyond the first complaint stage that you must observe.

We may exceptionally consider complaints outside of our time limits, at the discretion of the University.

If you submit a complaint outside of our time limits, and we don’t consider it exceptional, we will issue you with a letter explaining that you’re out of time. This is called a Completion of Procedures letter. You can use this to contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

Who’s eligible to complain

You can follow the student complaints procedure if you’re a:

  • current registered student studying at Sussex
  • recent graduate, up to six months after you have left the University
  • student who has recently withdrawn (temporarily or permanently) up to six months after withdrawing.

In all cases, you’re expected to raise your complaint within our time limits.

If you’re studying at a partner institution, you may be eligible to complain to us. See more about partner institution complaints.

What you can’t complain about

We will not pursue complaints:

  • considered to be frivolous (unfounded or trivial) or malicious (with vindictive motivation)
  • relating to University policy and management. This is because they are overseen by properly-constituted University governance bodies. If you are dissatisfied with our policies and management, speak to your Students’ Union representatives. They are members on most University governance bodies and can raise your concern
  • if you’re complaining about the Students’ Union – refer to the Students’ Union complaints procedure.

How to submit your complaint

If you have a concern, the first thing to do is tell us.

Overview

Our complaints process comprises three stages:

  • Level 1 – early resolution
  • Level 2 – investigation
  • Level 3 – review.

The level of complaint does not reflect the severity of a complaint.

We aim to resolve all complaints as soon as possible, typically at the early resolution stage.

Early resolution

To submit your initial complaint, get in touch with the relevant service provider.

State clearly what you are dissatisfied with, and how you would like your complaint to be resolved.

You should contact them immediately after the incident – ideally within 15 working days.

Example: If your complaint is about the teaching on your course, the response will usually be considered by the Director of Teaching and Learning for your School.

An early resolution outcome can be verbal or written. You can request your preference.

You should get an outcome within 15 working days of your complaint being categorised as a Level 1 complaint. In some circumstances, it may take longer. We will tell you if this is the case.

Investigation

If you have received a response to your early resolution complaint, and the outcome hasn’t addressed your concerns, you can ask for it to be investigated further. This is known as a Level 2 complaint.

In rare cases, we take a decision to escalate complaints straight to Level 2. We will inform you of this after you submit your initial complaint.

To request your complaint to be considered at this stage, fill in an investigation request form.

You should submit your complaint within three months of receiving your early resolution outcome.

What happens at the investigation level

All Level 2 complaints are overseen by the Associate Director, Student Engagement and Achievement, who is part of the Student Experience division at Sussex. The Office for Student Complaints, Appeals and Regulations manages this process on their behalf.

Before we investigate Level 2 complaints, we will:

  • send an auto-reply to your form submission
  • contact you about your complaint, usually within five working days, and may ask for more details so we fully understand your concerns
  • confirm whether we’re investigating your complaint at Level 2.

As part of the investigation:

  1. the Associate Director will usually appoint a senior member of University staff (the investigator) to look into your complaint
  2. the investigator will consider all appropriate complaint documentation, and
  3. the investigator writes a report explaining their findings.

You may be contacted by the investigator for more information to help them during this process.

The Associate Director will write you a letter to conclude your Level 2 complaint, taking into account the investigator’s findings.

You should get an outcome within two months. In some circumstances it may take longer. We will tell you if this is the case.

Review

If you have received an investigation response, and you continue to have concerns, you can ask for a review.

A review is not a reinvestigation but considers complaints on three grounds.

These are:

  1. there were procedural irregularities in the investigation of the complaint, which had a material effect on the outcome
  2. new evidence can be presented which wasn’t available earlier in the process and you were unable to reasonably do so
  3. the outcome of the investigation is unreasonable based on the weight of the evidence.

If you consider any of the three grounds to be relevant to your complaint, you can request a review.

You should request a review within one month of receiving your Level 2 outcome. Requests received later than this are not normally considered.

All Level 3 reviews are conducted by the Director for the Student Experience. The Office for Student Complaints, Appeals and Regulations liaises with you on their behalf.

Where the Director has been involved in an earlier stage of your complaint, they will pass the review over to a member of the University Executive Group.

Before we conduct a review, we will:

  1. send an auto-reply to your review submission
  2. contact you about your review request, usually within five working days, and may ask for more details
  3. confirm whether we’re reviewing your complaint.

You will be notified of the outcome of your review, and the reason for the decision, normally within one month of the date your request was accepted. This is a Completion of Procedures document. In some circumstances it may take longer than a month. We will tell you if this is the case.

Due to an unusually busy period, review outcomes will be communicated within two months of the day your request was accepted.

Partner institution complaint review

If you’re studying a Sussex course run by a partner institution, you may be eligible to ask us to review your complaint. A review is not a re-investigation of your complaint; we assess what happened with your complaint at the partner institution.

In the first instance, you must submit your complaint to the partner institution that’s providing your course. Don’t send it to us before you have done this.

The partner institution will respond to your complaint according to its own process. It will progress your complaint to the conclusion of its investigation stage.

Once the investigation stage is complete, your partner institution will confirm that your complaint can be considered further by us, if you choose.

If your complaint is not eligible to be considered by us, you should pursue your complaint further with your partner institution.

Eligibility

We can only review your complaint if your concern relates to:

  1. The quality of your learning opportunities
  2. The academic standards of the award.

We cannot consider complaints relating to:

  • academic judgement
  • your partner institution’s services
  • the conduct of staff not employed directly by us – contact the HR department of your partner institution
  • other aspects of your experience at the partner institution.

Our decision about whether we can review your complaint is final.

Time limit

You must contact us within 21 days of receiving the formal complaint outcome from your partner institution.

We will not generally consider complaints outside this time frame. Our decision is final.

Requesting a complaint review

To request a review, fill in the partner institution complaint review form.

For details on what happens in this process, see the Review section above.

Completion of Procedures

You will get a Completion of Procedures document when we have reached a point where we cannot pursue your complaint any further.

The University’s decision on this is final.

You can use your document to request an independent review.

Independent review

If you have exhausted our complaints process, or you have received a Completion of Procedures document, you may wish to contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA).

The OIA provides an independent scheme for the review of university student complaints and appeals.

Our principles throughout the process

Our Student Complaints Procedure operates on a set of principles. They ensure fairness and confidence for everyone through the process. Some principles have been outlined above.

The other principles cover things such as:

  • our expectations, including behaving with dignity and respect
  • privacy and confidentiality
  • group complaints
  • being accompanied or represented.

Read the full list of Student Complaints Procedure principles [PDF 120KB].

You can download a full PDF version of the Student Complaints Procedure [PDF 246KB].

Other complaints

If you are not a current student at Sussex see other ways to give feedback or make a complaint.

See more from Complain about the University