Advice for UK students:
Studying and living in the UK
Complaints and consumer rights
- Informal complaints
- Formal complaints
- Taking complaints beyond the institution
- Complaints to awarding bodies
- Consumer rights, Trading Standards and legal options
- Complaints relating to a disability
- How do I avoid becoming victim to a telephone fraud?
If you have a problem with the institution where you are studying, you could start by discussing it informally with a tutor or other relevant member of staff. If your institution has a students’ union or students’ association, they may be able to advise you or raise the issue on your behalf if you prefer.
If you want to raise a complaint formally, find out about the institution’s complaints policy, which will tell you how to do this. You should find details on your institution's website or in the student handbook. Find out about this as early as you can, as there may be time limits for making a complaint. Always keep copies of any documents and correspondence relating to your complaint.
Taking complaints beyond the institution
If you have gone through all the options offered by the internal complaints policy and are still not happy with the outcome, you may be able to raise the issue with one of the following external bodies, depending on the type of institution at which you are studying.
- Publicly funded universities and higher education institutions:
- Publicly funded further education colleges:
- Private sector schools and colleges: contact the organisation which accredits or provides Education Oversight of your college, which will offer a complaints scheme. This will be one or more of the following:
- Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (their Concerns procedure)
- the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
- Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (Scotland)
- Estyn (Wales)
- the Education and Training Inspectorate (N Ireland)
- the Independent Schools Inspectorate
- the School Inspection Service
- the Bridge Schools Inspectorate
There are some matters, mainly academic judgment, which may be outside the scope of these complaints schemes.
Complaints to awarding bodies
If you are studying a qualification which is awarded by a different organisation to the institution where you are studying, eg if you are studying at a college for a degree awarded by a university, you may be able to raise relevant complaints with the awarding body, as well as the college.
What complaints you can raise with the awarding body will depend on the basis of the agreement between the two organisations, but might cover matters such as poor teaching or inadequate library services, where the awarding body has set standards for the college to follow. It is less likely to cover non-academic matters such as accommodation.
If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the awarding body, you will also be able to complain to organisations responsible for its review or oversight. For example, if you are studying a degree from University X at College Y, and University X is reviewed by the Quality Assurance Agency and a member of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator scheme, you would be able to raise relevant complaints with these organisations.
Consumer rights, Trading Standards and legal options
Other options which you may be able to consider include:
- If you have not received a satisfactory service from your education provider, UK consumer protection legislation could apply. In some cases you would have to pursue the issue yourself, while in others you could refer the issue to your local authority Trading Standards Services or the Office of Fair Trading. For information and practical advice see:
- the Consumer Rights section of Directgov, the website of the UK government
- or contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 for information eg on whether you may be able recover the fees paid to the college if it goes out of business before you complete your course.
- Your local Trading Standards office can take action against colleges which misrepresent the services they provide including providing unaccredited degrees.
- If you believe there has been fraud on the part of the college, for example if they never intended to provide the course for which you paid, then it might be worth contacting the police.
- If you believe your college or university has breached its contract with you, or failed in its duty of care, you may be able to take legal action, although courts will normally expect you to have gone through internal complaints procedures and any external bodies such as the OIA first. You can consult your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a solicitor for advice on whether it is worth taking legal action.
- If your college closes unexpectedly, see our information sheer Tier 4 sponsor licence problems, and colleges that close.
Complaints relating to a disability
Disability Rights produces a helpful leaflet on making complaints relating to a disability.
How do I avoid being victim to a telephone fraud?
Some criminals target international students, telephoning them and pretending to be from a legitimate organisation (such as the UK Border Agency, or UKCISA). They demand money (a "fine"), and claim that if they do not receive it quickly, there will be damaging consequences (for example, deportation). You can help to protect yourself by being aware of the common features of these fraudulent calls ("scams"):
- The caller may appear to be genuine and convincing, because they have some limited information about you (for example, your passport number, as well as your telephone number and name).
- The caller may give you their name and telephone number, to try to convince you they are genuine.
- They may say that there is a serious problem with your immigration status, and that you need to send a payment.
- The payment is, most commonly, demanded to be made via Western Union as soon as possible, supposedly to prevent further action or investigation by the UK Border Agency.
- The caller will speak in dramatic terms, perhaps talking about deportation, but this is a common fraudster's technique, which can cause you to panic and become pressurised into paying the fake fine.
If you receive such a call (or contact by any other means, for example email or text) we advise as follows:
- Do not give the caller/sender any personal information, and do not confirm that any information they have is correct.
- Do not make any payment. The UK Border Agency does not issue financial penalties. Nor does UKCISA.
- You may wish to tell the caller/sender that you know about the fraudulent contact they are making, and that you will be reporting it to the police and the UK Border Agency. Or you may simply wish to hang up.
- Report the incident to your international student adviser, who can report the fraud to the police and to the UK Border Agency if you wish.
- If you wish, you can report the matter online to Action Fraud
- You can also help other potential victims of this fraud by adding details of your experience to the page about this fraud on the Who Calls Me website
For more information, please see the UK Border Agency website
Whenever you receive a telephone call from someone who you do not know, remember that it could be a scam. Criminals use all kinds of ways to trick you into paying them money, or giving them valuable information about yourself. Not all scams are about immigration.