Student Complaints Policy
Policy Number: Version Number 1 Review Date June 2022
Date: 07/06/2022 Status: Active Author/s Registrar
Learner Complaints & Grievance Procedure
While NCI will always try to resolve any issues that learners have with their programme of study through its quality assurance system and continuous enhancement of the learner experience, the College recognises that sometimes more serious problems can arise. NCI takes learner complaints & grievances seriously and endeavours to improve its processes and services by supporting learners in expressing their dissatisfaction and seeking resolution to problems encountered.
- A complaint "is an expression of dissatisfaction by one or more members of the public about an organisation’s action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by or on behalf of the organisation”.
- A grievance is an informal expression of dissatisfaction.
To ensure that learners have an appropriate means of lodging formal complaints & informal grievances that cannot be remedied via any other local mechanisms, NCI has developed the following student complaints & grievances procedure.
NCI’s “Learner Complaints & Grievances Procedure” seeks to provide a system to resolve legitimate complaints in a timely fashion. Such complaints & grievances can relate to the delivery of academic programmes (wide-ranging in scope) and/or the provision/availability of services. Most concerns can be successfully addressed and remedied through informal means, i.e., before a formal complaint is made. However, if informal resolution is unsuccessful or not to the satisfaction of the learner, the formal procedure can be pursued. NCI will follow the College Data Protection policy1 when investigating and retaining information about individuals within formal complaints.
Complaints & grievances should only be made by the impacted individual, and not by someone else on their behalf, even with their prior consent. The exception to this is whereby a complaint or grievance is shared by multiple learners (Section 188.8.131.52).
All complaints and grievances will be handled with sensitivity and discretion, and access to information about individual investigations will only be shared with those with a legitimate access requirement. All staff and learners who become aware of any of the issues involved in a formal complaint are required to keep this information confidential, except insofar as is necessary to progress, investigate or respond to the complaint. Data collected as part of a complaint will be treated in accordance with Data Protection legislation and will be retained in keeping with the NCI’s records retention policy. Retaliation or victimisation as a result of a complaint will not be tolerated. Complaints & grievances found to be malicious or vexatious will be dealt with under the College’s disciplinary procedures. NCI takes genuine learner complaints & grievances seriously and supports learners in seeking a resolution to their dissatisfaction. The Learner will not be discriminated against or suffer any recrimination as a result of making a legitimate complaint.
The “Learner Complaints & Grievances Procedure” can be used to submit a complaint about any aspect of NCI’s academic provisions and/or any other service provided directly by the College. The procedure does not, however, cover the following categories, for which separate procedures exist (if you need any more information on these procedures, please visit the appropriate section of this document outlined below:
- Grievances relating to personal harassment or discrimination on the grounds of gender, civil status, family status, age, disability, race, religious belief, sexual orientation or membership of the traveling community (Section Error! Reference source not found.);
- Requests for reviews of academic decisions (Chapter 4: Assessment) ;
- Complaints relating to the Students' Union (Contact email@example.com); and
- Appeals against decisions taken under disciplinary proceedings (Section Error! Reference source not found.).
The “Learner Complaints & Grievances Procedure” is available for learners currently enrolled on an NCI programme. Additionally, any individual who was a registered learner but who has graduated or otherwise left the College may also avail of the procedure providing that any such complaint is made within three months of the individual’s programme finish date and that the acts or omissions being complained have occurred whilst they were a registered learner. The following process is designed to resolve complaints or grievances as speedily and effectively as possible. The starting point is always to encourage the resolution of complaints or grievances through informal means, but the College provides a formal process where this proves unsuccessful or unsatisfactory to the complainant. All complaints, whether formal or informal, will be dealt with respectfully in the context of the College’s policies and according to the resources available.
5.1.2 Informal Grievance
To make an informal grievance, the learner should first address concerns directly to the person responsible to attempt to resolve the matter informally or discuss the concern with their Class Representative (If a Class Representative is not available, please contact the Students’ Union (SU)). Alternatively, the learner may ask their programme coordinator to discuss the grievance on their behalf.
If these options prove unsuccessful or unsatisfactory, the learner should then approach the person responsible for the programme or service unit about which the learner has made the complaint. This may be the learner’s Programme Director or Dean of School, or the relevant Head of Service Unit (All staff members details will be provided in the Learner Handbook and on Moodle). If the Learner needs help in expressing their concern or is reluctant to approach the person(s) responsible for the programme or service/unit, they can seek advice from the SU Welfare or Academic Affairs Officers or the Student Services Team. Contact information can be found here; https://www.ncirl.ie/About/A-Z-Staff-Directory. The learner can also seek advice from the Students’ Union Executive if they are not sure who the appropriate person is.
5.1.3 Formal Complaint
If it is not possible to resolve the issue informally, the learner can lodge a formal complaint with the Registrar through the Student Hub. This formal complaint must be submitted by filling in the learner complaint form.
All formal complaints must be identifiable; therefore, the complaint or grievance cannot be anonymous at the point of submission. All complaints will be handled with sensitivity and discretion, and access to information about individual investigations will only be shared with those with a legitimate access requirement. Access requirements may be denied by the registrar to maintain confidentiality of the learner where appropriate. The College will never seek information from confidential services e.g., counselling & disability, without the consent of the complainant, unless there is a serious risk of harm or danger to the individual, other learners, or staff members. The level of risk will be assessed by the Registrar along with the heads of counselling and disability services.
All complaints will go to the Registry Office through the Student Hub. As part of the investigation process, the Registrar will inform key individuals including Deans and Heads of Units where appropriate.
184.108.40.206 Collective Grievances/Complaints
Where a complaint or grievance is shared by multiple learners, learners can also raise this as a group through the class rep, if a class rep has been elected. If a class rep has not been elected, the collective group or their nominated representative should follow the mechanisms outlined above or contact the Students’ Union (SU). Learners can also choose to raise their concerns as an individual using the steps above.
220.127.116.11 Acknowledgement of Complaint, Investigation and Response
The Registrar will appoint a person to lead the investigation and a report from the investigation will inform the decision of the Registrar. The learner can expect to receive a written acknowledgement of their complaint within 48 hours (excluding weekends/bank holidays where the learner would receive an acknowledgement the next working day after the weekend/bank holiday) of its receipt with an estimated investigation and response timeframe of no more than 15 working days. The Learner will be kept updated throughout the investigation phase. They can also expect to be kept informed if there is undue delay in coming to an appropriate resolution. The Learner will also be kept informed of any decisions to refer the complaint to a suitable staff member or to another office for redress, or to pursue and remedy the complaint according to another College procedure.
The learner’s complaint will be investigated as quickly as possible. The investigation may include individual face-to-face discussions with the complainant and the relevant staff member or head of service. All meetings will be minuted and shared with the complainant. The learner may be accompanied by a Tutor, Student Support officer, SU Officers for Welfare and Academic Affairs, etc. Any staff member can be accompanied by a staff rep of their choice. The Office of the Registrar will set out the structure of the meetings in advance with the Complainant and/or relevant staff member or head of service. Once the investigation has been completed, the complainant will receive a written response detailing the measures taken and what actions, if any, are to be taken. The response will be sent to the complainant from the Registrar. If the complaint is deemed malicious or fake, disciplinary action may be taken (See Section 5.10 Disciplinary Policy & Procedures). The Learner will not be discriminated or suffer any recrimination as a result of making a legitimate complaint.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the Registrar, they can appeal by submitting the Appeals form on the Student Hub directly to the Office of the President.
Grounds for an appeal:
- The Learner has the right to appeal the decision of the Registrar if they feel that the response did not adequately address the areas of the complaint or if there was a procedural irregularity during the investigation.
The President or the Vice-President would then appoint a neutral/independent member of the NCI Executive (that has not been involved in the case) to review the investigation completed on behalf of the Registrar leading to the decision, as well as any additional information (oral or written) that was not considered by the Registrar. The outcome of this investigation would then be considered by an Appeals Panel comprised of the President and/or Vice President, SU President and the Executive member that conducted the investigation.
Note: The NCI President cannot be involved in complaints at an earlier stage. They are the final point of appeal within the College and complaints addressed to them that have not gone through the appropriate channels outlined above will be referred to the Registrar.
- Learner must submit an Appeal Form on the Student Hub which will be send directly to the Office of the President. The Appeal Form must be submitted within 10 working days of receiving the written complaint response.
- Receipt of the appeals complaint form to be acknowledged within 48 hours ((excluding weekends/bank holidays where the learner would receive an acknowledgement the next working day after the weekend/bank holiday) along with next steps and that update will be communicated within 15 working days (inclusive of post the 48 hours acknowledgement). Learners will be kept updated throughout the appeals process and the 15 working days is to be used as an absolute maximum rather than the norm.
- The appeal will be investigated by a member of the NCI Executive appointed by the President or Vice President. Their role is to review and consider anything new at this phase.
- At all stages in this process, the President or their investgator could ask to meet with the complainant or any other individuals involved in the formal complaint investigation and they will at all times have the right to be supported by a colleague or an SU Sabbatical Officer (Not the SU President as they will need to be part of an Appeals Panel with the president/Vice-President).
- The group will be provided with a written report outlining the handling of the complaint, appeal documentation submitted by the Learner and gather additional evidence where applicable.
- Individual interviews may be conducted with the Learner and others involved where necessary.
- A learner may be accompanied by a Tutor, Student Support officer, member of SU, etc.
- Any staff member invited to a meeting with a complainant can be accompanied by a staff rep of their choice.
- A written report will be issued by the group. The report will be approved by the Registrar/Director of Student Registry and provided to the Learner within the 15 working days. Learner is given 10 working days to respond and if not fully satisfied, they can be referred to the Ombudsman.
18.104.22.168 Monitoring and Feedback
All formal complaints will be monitored by the Registrar, with annual reports provided to the President and presented to the Academic Council for consideration. Data and trends arising from formal and informal complaints and appeals will be gathered and analysed annually by the Office of the registrar to inform decision making at a programme, School and institutional level. An annual report will be produced to be considered by Academic Council. This monitoring process is part of the College’s efforts to continually improve its academic provisions, administrative processes and delivery of services to all cohorts of learners.
22.214.171.124 Referral to Office of the Ombudsman
If a learner has exhausted NCI’s internal complaint procedure and remains dissatisfied with the proposed recommendations, remedies offered or how the complaint itself was handled, they are entitled to refer their complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman (OO) in Ireland.
The OO will seek to determine if there was any maladministration in the handling of the complaint and, if yes, the effects of this maladministration. While the OO handles complaints and determines appropriate redress first and foremost, its secondary role is to drive improvements in public administration and ensure institutional learning to prevent recurrence.
If the OO decides to carry out an investigation, they must inform both the complainant and NCI of the results. NCI must also be afforded an opportunity to consider the matter and make representations before any adverse finding or criticism is made.
The Ombudsman may investigate any action taken by or on behalf of NCI in the performance of administrative functions if that action has resulted in an adverse effect, intended or otherwise. These actions must have been either:
- taken without proper authority
- taken on irrelevant grounds
- the result of negligence or carelessness
- based on erroneous or incomplete information
- based on an undesirable administrative practice
- a failure to comply with section 4A of the legislation or
- otherwise, contrary to fair and sound administration
A complaint is excluded from the OO’s jurisdiction if a person has already initiated court proceedings or has a right of appeal to another body; the complaint was not made within 12 months of the action occurring; or the complaint relates to the terms and conditions of employment.