2nd January 2020

University Complaints

If you are unhappy with any aspect of your university experience, have a problem with your supervisor or need to solve any placement issues the following information will be helpful.

  1. Making a complaint about the university
  2. Making a complaint about industrial action
  3. Problems with placements
  4. Supervision problems

Making a complaint about the university

If you are unhappy with any aspect of your university experience, such as; your course, tutors, supervision, procedures, etc, the University has a complaints procedure in place to allow you to raise your concerns and hopefully get things resolved.

Making a complaint about industrial action

If you are considering a complaint to the University about the impact of industrial action on your studies, this guide contains information to help you make that decision, and advice about how to pursue your complaint.

Problems with placements

Passing your placement is necessary in programmes where this forms part of the degree. It is really important to solve any problems early so that it doesn't affect your degree / qualification.

As part of your degree, you may be required to do a work placement. There are two types work placement that are incorporated within degrees:

  • Some of the professional degree courses (such as those in Medicine, Dentistry, Orthoptics, Nursing, Teaching, etc), require that you complete compulsory assessed placements. Sometimes these may also be referred to as clinical attachments or school experiences.
  • The other type of placement is the one-year work experience for degrees with employment experience.

Please note: ERASMUS is different to the placements described here. More information on ERASMUS.

Important points to note about issues on placement :

  • If you encounter problems with your work placement, this can have serious consequences on your degree as you must pass the placements to obtain your degree. As well as this, poor progress reports, failure, or early termination of a placement could result in your fitness to practise being reviewed or a referral to Faculty Student Review Committee.
  • Bearing this in mind, it is important that you tackle any problems that arise promptly.
  • If you encounter problems on your placement, your first port of call should be your placement supervisor/mentor because their job is to support you as well as assess you.
  • A good placement will include an induction session, this provides you the opportunity to ask questions and sort out practical issues. Ask your supervisor to clarify anything you are unsure of.
  • Let your placement supervisor/ mentor know if there are any practical or personal issues preventing you from meeting your responsibilities. For example, if shift patterns are genuinely a problem, it may be possible to re-negotiate them, or if due to a medical problem your attendance is being affected.
  • If your supervisor has concerns about your performance during the placement, they should let you know. Unless these are so serious that the placement is terminated early, your supervisor should work with you to try to overcome the problems.
  • If you encounter problems during your placement, for example lack of support or lack of opportunities, you should raise these with your supervisor promptly.
  • Your department will also have a member of staff responsible for overseeing placements. If you have concerns about your placement that cannot be resolved with your supervisor you should talk to this placement tutor. They too can advise you how to tackle the problems, or talk to the placement on your behalf. If necessary the placement tutor may be able to arrange a different placement for you.

Supervision problems

The working relationship between you and your PhD supervisor is a close one. This can make dealing with conflicts difficult. But in case of a problem with your supervisor, this guide sets out ways in which you can try and resolve the issue.

Throughout your PhD you should have a named ‘Primary’ Supervisor who has the main responsibility for supporting you in your research. You should also have one or more ‘Secondary’ Supervisors, particularly if your project is interdisciplinary. The Secondary Supervisor would usually support in the Doctoral Development Programme. The University recommends meetings between student and supervisor at least every 4 to 6 weeks. In the early stages you may see your supervisor more frequently.

Full details on what to expect in terms of supervision can be found in the Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes (PGR).

The close working relationship between student and supervisor means that problems or disputes that arise can be very upsetting and disruptive. It is important to address any concerns about your supervision arrangements promptly.

Common supervision problems include:

  • Supervisor lacking the necessary expertise to provide support
  • The absence of the supervisor due to study leave or sickness
  • Supervisor providing unclear guidance and advice
  • Supervisor being slow in providing feedback on written work
  • Supervisor leaving during student’s PhD
  • Student feeling undermined or bullied by a supervisor
  • Breakdown of relationship between student and supervisor

If you have a problem with supervision:

1. Know What to Expect

Understanding your own and your supervisor’s roles and responsibilities will help avoid misunderstandings that could lead to disputes. You may find it useful to refer to the PGR Code of Practice on Supervision to help understand the duties of your supervisor(s) and good practice in supervision.

2. Talk to Your Supervisor

Share your concerns with your supervisor. In many cases this will be enough to sort out any problems quickly and amicably. Keep written notes of supervision meetings, and agree these with your supervisor. These records can help avoid misunderstandings from occurring in the first place, and be referred to if any problems do arise. Any problems discussed in supervision meetings, as well as outcomes, should be also be recorded these written notes.

It is also advisable to keep a record of email exchanges between you and your supervisor, so that they can be referred to if required.

3. Talk to Your Department

If the first step of talking to your supervisor does not work or you do not feel able to raise concerns with them, you should discuss the problem with someone else in your department, for example the Postgraduate Tutor or Head of Department. They should be able to explore your options and help find a solution to the problem.

4. Change of Supervisor

Sometimes where issues cannot be resolved, a change of supervisor may be the most appropriate solution. Either you or your supervisor can request this change. Wherever possible a different or additional supervisor will be allocated. If you are considering asking for a change of supervisor you should discuss your options with the Postgraduate Tutor or Head of Department. More on changing supervisors

5. Make a Complaint

If the above steps have not resolved your issue, you may need to consider making a formal complaint. Please refer to our webpage on ‘Making a Complaint to the University’ for further information and guidance.

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