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Doctoral College Scholarship Applications Complaints Procedure

The University is committed to providing a high-quality service to our postgraduate scholarship applicants, and actively encourages feedback on all aspects of the scholarship application process.

Applicants have the right to complain if they believe that the level of service provided by the University’s Doctoral College falls short of what might reasonably be expected or if they believe a procedural irregularity has had a detrimental material effect.

Applicants do not have the right of appeal against the academic judgement made on their application and this is not eligible for consideration under this Doctoral College Scholarships Complaints Procedure.

If a complaint relates to a course application, applicants should refer this to the SROAS Complaints Procedure.

Current students should refer any complaints to the University Complaints and Resolution Procedure.

Overview

What are the aims of this Procedure? To resolve complaints relating to postgraduate scholarship applications in a timely, effective and fair manner; and to resolve complaints informally where possible. To undertake a fair and thorough investigation of formal complaints where necessary.

How does this Procedure operate? There are three stages to the Doctoral College Scholarship Applications Complaints Procedure. Early resolution of the complaint should be sought, and it is expected that the vast majority of complaints will be resolved at Stage 1. Applicants must start at Stage 1 unless there are truly exceptional circumstances which make it inappropriate to do so.

What is a complaint? A complaint is defined for this Procedure as an expression of dissatisfaction either about the way in which a scholarship application has been handled, the outcome of a selection process or a perceived mishandling of scholarship administration. It may concern actions or inaction by the University or its staff. A challenge to a scholarship application decision based on academic judgement is not eligible for consideration under this Procedure.

Who can make a complaint? The Doctoral College Scholarship Applications Complaints Procedure may be used by individual applicants, or by groups; it may also be used by a designated representative (as noted via written confirmation). The Doctoral College Scholarship Applications Complaints Procedure is the same for all applicants.

Can complaints be anonymous? Complaints submitted anonymously will only be considered if sufficient information is provided to allow the University to investigate the complaint. Applicants are discouraged from making anonymous complaints as it hinders investigation and there is little prospect of appropriate resolution. Staff who receive anonymous complaints will be expected to use their discretion and judgement in handling such complaints. If sufficient information is not provided the University will be unable to pursue an investigation and the complaint will be closed. Informal feedback about postgraduate scholarships is encouraged and can be submitted anonymously. If a complaint cannot be investigated, the key aspects of the complaint will be recorded, and further investigation may be subsequently undertaken, if deemed possible and appropriate.

Who will see the complaint? In order for a complaint to be investigated, the member of staff will maintain the confidentiality of the complaint and its contents as far as is possible. However, it is likely that the complaint or aspects of it will need to be shared with other staff members involved in resolving the complaint. Should allegations be made within a complaint directly against another individual, these elements of the complaint will typically need to be shared with them so that they have the opportunity of reply in their own defence as required. If an applicant has concerns about retaliation by the individual or individuals against whom a complaint is being made, this should be highlighted when making a complaint. The outcomes and recommendations from complaint investigations may be shared across the University in the spirit of institutional learning, however any personal information will be removed and handled in accordance with the University’s Data Protection Policy.

What is the timescale for making a complaint? Complaints should be raised as soon as possible with the appropriate part of the University to ensure prompt investigation and, wherever possible, swift resolution.

  • Complaints must normally be made within 10 University working days of the action (or lack of actions) that prompted the complaint.
  • After each response, the applicant or their designated representative has 10 working days to escalate their complaint to the next stage.
  • A request by an applicant or their designated representative to the Director of Graduate Studies to consider a complaint beyond the above time limits will not normally be granted unless there is evidence that the applicant was precluded from raising or escalating the complaint within the normal timescales.

How can feedback on this Procedure be given? The University values all feedback and will take it into account when reviewing its policies, processes and services. We are committed to ensuring we deliver the most effective service possible and to that end welcome feedback on the Doctoral College Scholarship Applications Complaints Procedure and the related information and guidance provided. If you would like to assist with improving this Procedure or the service provided, you can email doctoralcollege@warwick.ac.uk.

Stages of the Doctoral College Scholarships Complaints Procedure

The Procedure is intended to provide a streamlined process with a focus on early resolution and has three stages:

  1. Informal Resolution is the stage where straightforward concerns should be resolved swiftly and effectively.
  2. Formal Resolution is appropriate where an applicant is dissatisfied with the outcome of informal resolution at Stage 1, or where informal resolution is not possible or appropriate due to the complexity or seriousness of the complaint.
  3. Formal Institutional Review is where the applicant can request that their complaint is considered by a higher body in the University for a review of the process to ensure that appropriate procedures were followed, and that the decision-making was reasonable.

This Procedure details how applicants may seek to have their complaints addressed and it should be recognised that the vast majority of complaints from applicants can be handled fairly, amicably and to the satisfaction of all parties without recourse to the formal stages of the Procedure.

While there are three clear stages in the Procedure, seeking resolution may potentially be an iterative process within each stage, with active engagement by the applicant and relevant others prior to the final complaint outcome for that stage being communicated to the applicant.

Stage 1: Informal Resolution

Applicants are encouraged to raise complaints as soon as they become aware of the problem by emailing the Doctoral College, outlining the nature and details of their complaint. Complaints should not normally be made directly to academic departments. However, depending on the nature of the complaint, the member of staff considering the complaint in the Doctoral College may consult an academic department in order to resolve the complaint. Complaints from applicants should normally be received within 10 University working days of the action (or lack of actions) that had prompted the complaint.

Stage 1 Informal Resolution will typically be completed in 10 University working days, though a resolution should be sought as quickly as possible. In exceptional circumstances a short extension of time may be necessary to increase the possibility of resolving the complaint (for example by obtaining information from other areas of the University) at this stage. Where an extension is required this will be clearly communicated to the applicant before the end of the expected time period.

The outcome of the Stage 1 complaint will be communicated to the applicant by email. The response to the complaint will address all the key elements raised in the complaint and will explain the reasons for the determinations made, including any agreed resolutions. The applicant will be advised of their right to submit a Formal Stage 2 complaint and reference given to the Procedure. The Formal Stage 2 complaint must be received within 10 University working days following the outcome of the Stage 1 process being communicated to the applicant and, where appropriate, their representative, otherwise the complaint will be closed.

Stage 2: Formal Resolution

Formal complaints will already have been considered at the Informal Resolution stage unless there are exceptional circumstances or conflicts of interest which could preclude Informal Resolution. The purpose of conducting an investigation is to establish all of the facts relevant to the points made in the complaint and to provide a full, objective, and proportionate response.

A Stage 1 complaint will be moved to Stage 2 when:

  • Informal Resolution has been attempted but the applicant remains dissatisfied following receipt of the Stage 1 outcome and takes action to escalate,
  • The problems raised by the applicant are complex and require detailed investigation and the implications are significant.

If an applicant remains dissatisfied after the Stage 1 Informal Resolution and wishes to escalate the complaint within the University, they must complete and submit a Formal Stage 2 Applicant Complaints Form within 10 University working days.

The applicant will be expected to provide full details of the complaint and the resolution they are seeking, including all relevant supporting evidence and documentation. The applicant is advised to seek advice where available.

Typically, the complaint will be considered by the Head of the Doctoral College unless there has been a prior involvement in the complaint in which case, they will refer the matter to a more senior colleague. The Head of the Doctoral College will consider:

  • What specifically is the complaint? What are the key elements?
  • Why was Informal Resolution unsuccessful, was any potential resolution offered?
  • What the applicant seeks to achieve by escalating the complaint to Stage 2?
  • Do the applicant’s expectations appear to be reasonable and achievable?

If the applicant’s expectations appear to exceed what the University may reasonably provide, or are not within the University’s power to provide, the applicant should be advised of this as soon as possible in order to manage expectations.

The Doctoral College will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 5 University working days. A full response will be provided to the applicant typically no later than 15 University working days from the time that the complaint, and all associated documentation, was received for investigation. Not all investigations will be able to meet this indicative timescale and where there are clear and justifiable reasons for extending the timescale the applicant will be informed in writing of the revised timescale for providing a full response.

The outcome of the Stage 2 complaint will be communicated in writing to the applicant giving a clear explanation for the determination made on each key element of the complaint and any resolution to the complaint agreed. The applicant will be advised of their right to escalate the Stage 2 complaint to Stage 3 Institutional Review, the grounds on which this is permissible, the time limit for escalation and the appropriate Procedure. Once the outcome has been issued, a record will be kept by the Doctoral College, detailing the decision reached. If the applicant does not escalate the complaint to Stage 3 within 10 University working days, the complaint will be closed.

Stage 3: Formal Institutional Review

An applicant who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the Formal Resolution Stage of the Doctoral College Scholarship Applications Complaints Procedure may request a Stage 3 Institutional Review within 10 University working days of the written Stage 2 process being provided to them.

A Stage 3 review may be requested when:

  • There is evidence of procedural irregularity or bias at Stage 2,
  • The Stage 2 outcome is considered unreasonable,
  • Material evidence is available that was unavailable at Stage 2 and it is determined that it would not be appropriate for the complaint to be re-opened at Stage 2.

The applicant should complete a Stage 3 Institutional Review Form including full details of the complaint and the Stage 2 response.

The applicant is advised to seek advice where available. Typically, the complaint will be considered by the Academic Director of Graduate Studies unless there has been a prior involvement in the complaint in which case, they will refer the matter to another senior colleague. The Academic Director of Graduate Studies will consider:

  • Whether the applicant’s expectations exceed the scope of the review.
  • Were appropriate procedures followed?
  • Were the outcomes of the formal stage reasonable and proportionate?
  • Has relevant new evidence been submitted? Is the submission of the new evidence valid?

Stage 3 complaints submitted for Institutional Review will be acknowledged within 5 University working days. Where it is determined that there are sufficient grounds, the Academic Director of Graduate Studies will review the complaint and provide an outcome in writing no later than 30 University working days from the time that the Stage 3 complaint was submitted for Stage 3 Formal Institutional Review.

Where there are clear and justifiable reasons for extending the timescale for considering a complaint in Stage 3, the Academic Director of Graduate Studies will exercise judgement and set time limits on extending the review, notifying the applicant in writing. The applicant will be kept updated on the need for any extension and be given a revised deadline for bringing the Stage 3 review to a conclusion.

The outcome of the Formal Institutional Review will be communicated to the applicant in writing. The outcome will include a clear explanation of the determination made on the key elements within the complaint under review. The University will give an explanation of how any outcomes from the review are to be implemented.

Once a decision has been issued a record will be kept by the University detailing the outcome and the complaint will be closed subject to any further external escalation. The Head of the Doctoral College will monitor, on an annual basis, formal complaints which have been referred, and will be responsible for implementing, or recommending to the appropriate authority, changes to systems or procedures suggested by the nature and pattern of the complaints received.