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Durham University

Welcome to Durham University's Common Awards website

Admissions Complaints


1. This guidance relates to admissions complaints only. The term ‘admissions complaint’ is used to describe a specific concern regarding a procedural error, irregularity or mal-administration in admissions policies or procedures. (Guidance on the process for academic complaints is provided in the TEI Handbook.)

2. The term ‘admissions appeal’ refers to the request by an unsuccessful applicant for a formal review of the outcome of an admissions decision.

3. Admissions complaints concern the administration of admissions policies and procedures; admissions appeals concern the outcome of an admissions decision. As Durham University does not permit admissions appeals, this guidance relates to admissions complaints only.

Admissions complaints at Durham

5. TEIs in the Common Awards Scheme will be expected to operate equivalent mechanisms to those in the University’s Admission Regulations (including the Regulations for Admission (Undergraduate), 12, and the Regulations for Admission (Postgraduate), 16). To facilitate this, we have defined a process that should be used for all admission complaints relating to the Common Awards programmes.

Admissions complaints process for the Common Awards

7. Admissions complaints relating to the Common Awards programmes should be progressed in line with the following process:

LEVEL 1: Investigation of the complaint at TEI level


TEI: Informal resolution

Students who have a complaint to make should raise it as soon as possible. Students should raise a complaint no more than 28 days after the event unless there is good reason for the delay. Even if a formal complaint is received, the TEI should try to resolve the complaint using informal mechanisms in the first instance, where appropriate. At the conclusion of any informal resolution attempts, the student should be informed of the formal complaint procedure and deadline for submitting a formal complaint.

STAGE 2: TEI: Formal resolution

The formal stage should be instituted only when the informal procedures have been exhausted and the complainant remains dissatisfied.

All TEIs should have a formal mechanism for receiving and recording the details of admissions complaints that enter the formal resolution stage, and a process for investigating and reporting findings and outcomes to the student. At Stage 2, the TEI should review the admissions complaint in relation to the administration of the TEI’s admissions policies or procedures.

LEVEL 2: Referral to the University

STAGE 3: University review

If the complainant remains dissatisfied once the TEI’s informal and formal procedures are exhausted, the complainant must be informed of their right to request a review by the University. The University will determine whether to review the admissions complaint to ascertain whether the TEI’s admissions policies and processes had been implemented correctly. If procedural irregularities are identified, the complaint might be referred back to the TEI for further review.

Expectations for TEIs

8. All TEIs should:

(a) routinely document the reasons for admissions decisions in order to facilitate the provision of feedback to applicants upon request;

(b) endeavour to resolve any concerns raised by applicants informally in the first instance;

(c) operate fair, effective, and timely procedures to enable students to raise admissions complaints in the event that informal resolution is unsuccessful;

(d) clearly document their internal procedures for raising admissions complaints so that applicants are aware of: the opportunity to raise an admissions complaint; the procedure they will need to follow to raise a complaint; which member(s) of core staff to contact at each stage in the process. It is likely that TEIs will want to include such details within their admissions policies;

(e) ensure that complainants are aware of their right to refer admissions complaints to Durham University should they remain dissatisfied after the TEI has reviewed the complaint formally;

(f) not discriminate against applicants who request feedback or make a complaint should they submit another application;

(g) have in place appropriate processes, structures and systems to maintain oversight of admissions complaints (through their Management Committee) in order to monitor quality and standards, and report to the University. This includes effective record-keeping to ensure that any decisions made throughout the process are documented clearly for review and audit purposes.

Further information

9. TEIs are also advised to note the following:

(a) guidance on admissions is available in the TEI Handbook;

(b) the Office of the Independent Adjudicator does not consider complaints concerning admissions.

10. If members of staff in TEIs have any questions about admissions complaints, they should contact the Common Awards Team in the first instance.