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The SU Guide to Writing an Effective Complaint

We know that writing a complaint can feel daunting, so we have provided a guide to give you some tips and useful points to consider when writing your complaint.


How can we help?

  • We can discuss grounds for complaints and help students make sense of the complaints process.
  • Provide knowledge and guidance regarding academic regulations, policies, and procedures.
  • We can read complaint drafts and make suggestions to ensure your complaint is as clear as possible and contains all the relevant information (as long as they are submitted to us in time).
  • Students should endeavour to write their own complaint from their own unique perspective, but we are here to provide support and guidance through the process.
  • Before making a complaint, be sure to read through the SU Guide to the Complaints procedure on the website.

Keep it clear

To increase the likelihood of a fair resolution, it is important to make your complaint easy to read and understand.

The person reading your complaint may have no prior knowledge of your situation or the individuals involved, and they will not independently gather evidence on your behalf.

Therefore, it is essential to eliminate any room for uncertainty.

Ensure that the reader can understand the following aspects of your complaint:

  • Grounds for complaint.
  • Description of what happened.
  • Timeframe of when it occurred.
  • Location of the incident.
  • Impact of the event.
  • Individuals involved.
  • Actions you have taken so far.
  • Unsatisfactory responses received and reasons for your dissatisfaction.
  • Which piece of evidence applies to which statement.

To achieve clarity consider:

  • Using bullet points
  • Presenting information chronologically.
  • Using Paragraphs to separate different sections.
  • Basing your complaint on objective facts and evidence.

Keep it concise

Add as much detail as you think necessary to ensure the complaints team can understand your case, and leave out anything that isn’t relevant. Be as specific as possible, don’t leave any room for interpretation.

It may be helpful to ask someone unfamiliar with your case to review your complaint and ensure they understand all the points mentioned.

Grounds for a Complaint

Clearly state the specific grounds for your complaint. The following are a few examples, but there may be other grounds depending on your circumstances. To support your grounds, provide evidence and specific examples. If you require assistance in identifying your grounds, you can book an SU Advice Appointment using this link.

Examples of grounds for complaint include:

  1. Academic Issues:
    • Unfair grading or assessment practices.
    • Inadequate teaching quality or support.
    • Failure to provide necessary learning resources.
  2. Administrative or Service-related Concerns:
    • Delays or errors in administrative processes (e.g., enrollment, graduation).
    • Poor communication or lack of response from university staff.
    • Inadequate facilities or services (e.g., library, IT support).
  3. Discrimination and Harassment:
    • Instances of discrimination based on protected characteristics (e.g., race, gender, disability, or other protected characteristics).
    • Cases of harassment, bullying, or inappropriate behavior by staff or students.
  4. Financial Matters:
    • Issues related to tuition fees, scholarships, or financial aid.
    • Mishandling of student loans or bursaries.
    • Disputes over charges or billing errors.
  5. Health and Safety Concerns:
    • Unsafe or unhealthy campus conditions.
    • Inadequate response to health emergencies or safety incidents.
    • Lack of accessibility for students with disabilities.


Add any policies, procedures, or documentation your complaint relates to

Your complaint might have a university policy or procedure to back it up, perhaps the university hasn’t followed a procedure correctly, or hasn’t provided what was stated in written documentation. If your complaint is related to a university policy, procedure, or document, make sure to mention it in your complaint form. Identify the relevant policy or procedure that supports your complaint and refer to it within your complaint.

For instance:
"The [procedure_name] procedure states [XXXX], which is contradicted by the evidence presented in [evidence_name]."

It is also important to highlight situations where the university followed a procedure as stated in the policy but had an unintended negative impact on a student.

Add dates and locations

It is very important to add dates and locations to your complaint.

If you talk about an event, add the date, timeframe, location, and evidence of this if relevant. For example:

‘The issue occurred on [dd/mm/yyyy] in room [XX] and then again on [dd/mm/yyyy] in [Car Park XX]’

This will help the reader make sense of your complaint chronologically and allow them to be able to cross reference dates and locations with other statements or evidence.


Add names

Just like adding dates, adding full names to your complaint will help the reader understand who was involved and when relevant, be able to question said people regarding your complaint.

It can also be useful to add job titles with names to avoid confusion.

For example:

Jeff Goldblum, Module Leader for [module, course].


Use evidence

Have Evidence to support your complaint.

Having evidence is crucial for investigating your complaint effectively. So, it's really important to provide as much evidence as possible. If you don’t have good evidence, think about how you might be able to get some.

Remember, it's your responsibility to gather and provide the evidence to support your complaint. The University won't collect the evidence for you. If you're waiting for evidence, like a witness statement, and the deadline is approaching, make sure to mention it in your complaint form. Then, submit the evidence as soon as you can. Late submission of evidence will be considered at the discretion of the relevant team, but it's best to submit it on time if possible.

We want to ensure that your complaint is taken seriously. So, please do your best to gather and submit the necessary evidence to support your case.

The types of evidence you submit will vary depending on the circumstances and grounds of the complaint. Here are some examples of evidence:

  • Extracts from Falmouth University regulations, policies, and procedures.
  • Emails or other written correspondence.
  • Photographs or screenshots.
  • Witness statements (please note that anonymous witness statements may not be accepted).
  • Medical evidence (e.g. medical report, doctor’s letter)
  • Correspondence (e.g. email, letters)
  • Police reports
  • Court documents
  • Official summary of support needs

(This is not an exhaustive list)

Evidence needs to:

  • Be from a reliable and appropriate source.
  • Be relevant to your complaint.
  • Clearly labelled:
    Evidence 1 – Letter from GP. Dated dd/mm/yyyy.
  • In the form of whole documents where possible, if screenshots are used, ensure all relevant information is visible, like dates, times, names, signatures, headed paper, etc.

For impartial advice on what could be considered evidence for your specific complaint, please reach out to us. We are here to help you, book an SU Advice appointment with us here.


Referencing your evidence

As stated above, evidence is key when investigating a complaint. Without it, your complaint is unlikely to be considered.

To strengthen your complaint, provide evidence to support each statement you make.

Label and upload/send all evidence clearly alongside your complaint.

When making a point, reference the evidence that supports it using brackets. For example:

“I contacted [name, job title] on [dd/mm/yyyy] as evident in [evidence_name_01].”

Desired Outcome

Clearly state the outcome you seek as a result of your complaint.

This may include:

  • Acknowledgment of an issue.
  • An apology
  • Desired changes
  • Compensation

It is essential to be specific about your expectations and remain realistic in your desired outcome. While it may be unlikely to receive a full refund of fees for one unsatisfactory module, it could be reasonable to request a refund for that specific module based on program and module specifications.

To gain insight into potential outcomes, you can review case summaries on the OIA website here.

If you have any questions regarding outcomes, just book an SU Advice appointment for further discussion.


Understanding the Balance of Probabilities.

It is important to note that outcomes of investigations are based on what’s called the ‘Balance of Probabilities’. This means the team investigating the complaint will consider the question ‘Is it more likely than not that this happened?

To support your case, provide clear evidence that demonstrates what happened. It is your responsibility to provide proof for your complaint. Failure to provide evidence may result in the investigation team concluding that an incident did not occur due to lack of evidence.


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Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union
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