Student Complaints Guidance: Requesting a Formal Investigation


This document is one of a series of Student Guidance notes which aim to help students make a complaint under the University’s Student Complaints Procedure.  It provides general guidance on matters which apply to all stages of the Student Complaints Procedure.

Other documents in the series provide specific guidance on Early Resolution, Requesting a Formal Investigation, and Requesting a Review.


Student Guidance notes are provided to help you make your complaint.  They provide explanatory information about our Student Complaints Procedure and how it operates.

Reading Student Guidance is not a substitute for reading the Student Complaints Procedure; the Procedure itself takes precedence over Student Guidance.


If you require a copy of these Student Guidance notes, or any other document, in hard copy or other format, please contact the Student Cases Team.

Help, guidance, and support

Edge Hill University Inclusion Team

If you have a disability and need support to access or navigate the complaints process, or to discuss reasonable adjustments, the Inclusion Team can help you. You can contact them:

  • in person at the Catalyst Helpdesk
  • by telephone on 01695 584190
  • by email at [email protected]

We will consider making reasonable adjustments for a disabled student if we are asked to.   For example, your disability might impair your ability to meet deadlines. In that case, a reasonable adjustment might be to extend the time limits in the Complaints Procedure. We will consider the relevant recommendations in your needs assessment when making reasonable adjustments.

If you have a disability which you have not previously declared to the University, we encourage you to do so by arranging to see the Inclusion Team.

Edge Hill Students’ Union

When you enrol as a student at Edge Hill University you automatically become a member of Edge Hill Students’ Union (EHSU).

EHSU provides free, independent, advice, support, and representation. We strongly advise you to contact EHSU before making a complaint. EHSU advisers are best placed to assist you as they are familiar with the University’s policies and procedures.

You can contact EHSU:

Student Cases Team

If you have any queries about any of the guidance notes or any aspect of the complaints process please contact the Student Cases Team:

  • in person by visiting the Student Administration Helpdesk, Student Administration Building
  • by email at [email protected]
  • by telephone on 01695 657248
  • by post at:

Student Cases Team
Academic Registry
Student Administration Building
Edge Hill University
St Helens Road
L39 4QP

1. What is a Formal Investigation?

A Formal Investigation is the second stage of the Student Complaints Procedure.

You can request a Formal Investigation if:

  • you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Early Resolution stage;
  • your complaint is serious or complex and not suitable to be dealt with through informal Early Resolution;
  • Early Resolution is not possible for another reason; or
  • where you do not want to try Early Resolution.

The Investigator will normally be someone who has not been involved in your complaint before.  The investigation is dealt with more formally and will usually involve:

  • the appointed Investigator being a more senior member of University staff;
  • a note taker being present at meetings, a copy of meeting notes will be provided to you;
  • a detailed written outcome to your complaint including the reasons for the decision reached.

We encourage all students to start their complaint at the Early Resolution stage as most complaints are resolved quickly and informally at that stage.

If you have not yet tried Early Resolution, please consider it.

2. Is there a time limit?


If you have previously tried to resolve your complaint at the Early Resolution stage:

  • you must make your request for a Formal Investigation within 14 days of the date we informed you of the outcome Early Resolution.

If you are starting your complaint at the Formal Investigation stage:

  • you must make your complaint within three months of the date the subject matter first affected you.

If you have recently left the University:

  • you must make your complaint within one month of leaving.

3. How do I request a Formal Investigation?

You need to fill in a Formal Investigation Form and send supporting evidence.

If you are requesting a Formal Investigation of a complaint made by a group of students, please use the Group Complaint Form. There is separate Student Guidance for Group Complaints.

The Form is an important document. It is your opportunity to tell us the details of your complaint and your suggestion for resolution.

Before you make your complaint read:

There are further Student Guidance documents to help you at other stages in       the complaints process:

3.1       Resolution

Take some time to think about how you would like your complaint to be resolved. It helps us to know at the start of the investigation what you are seeking as a resolution to your complaint, as it may be something that can be achieved quickly.

If your complaint is found to be justified, our aim is to provide practical resolutions wherever possible. We will consider reasonable resolutions put forward by students, but you need to be realistic about what you are seeking.  Our aim is to help resolve your complaint, not to punish others.

3.2. Complaint details

If you are asking for a Formal Investigation because you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Early Resolution stage, use the Form to tell us why.  If some of your concerns were resolved at the Early Resolution stage, please tell us so that we do not spend time investigating matters which have been resolved.

The Form asks you to provide a detailed explanation of your complaint.  The box on the Form is intended to expand, use as much space as you need to tell us about your complaint.

It is helpful if you provide the details in chronological order, referring to relevant dates where you know them.  We suggest you include the date and then a description of what happened. If the date relates to a document, name the document and describe the key information it contains. Doing this will help you, and the Investigator, to see the order of events; it can also help order your thoughts and formulate questions.

4. Group Complaints

If you are making a complaint on behalf of yourself and at least one other student, we treat this as a Group Complaint.

We ask you to complete a Group Complaint Form because it is essential that we know who is involved in the complaint.

The Group needs to appoint a Lead Student to act as the Group’s representative and single point of contact about the complaint.  The Lead Student can still have the benefit of representation or support from Edge Hill Students’ Union.

The Lead Student has the following responsibilities:

  • liaise with all other students in the Group;
  • collate supporting evidence from the Group;
  • complete the Group Complaints Form on behalf of the Group;
  • submit the Group Complaint Form and supporting evidence to the Student Cases Team within the time limit;
  • provide regular feedback to the Group on the progress of the complaint;
  • act as the University’s single point of contact about the complaint, all correspondence and queries will be sent to the Lead Student; and
  • attend meetings with the University on behalf of the Group.

We do not usually allow additional students to join the Group Complaint once the Complaint Form has been submitted.

5. Supporting evidence

When you send us your completed Form, please also send any evidence you have to support your complaint.

Think about the evidence you would like the Investigator to consider.  For evidence to support your complaint it must be clear how it relates to the points you are making. The following list is not exhaustive, but contains examples of the kind of supporting evidence you might provide:

  • e-mail
  • letters
  • transcripts
  • course documents and information
  • contracts
  • receipts
  • medical evidence such as a letter from a doctor
  • witness statements.

6. Where do I send my Complaint Form and evidence?

Send your completed Form, and any supporting evidence, to the Student Cases Team. We prefer you to send it by email to: [email protected]

Alternatively, you can hand deliver, or post it, to the address provided at the beginning of this Guidance.

If you are delivering your documents by hand, please put them in a sealed envelope marked ‘Student Cases Team’.

If you are sending your documents by post we advise sending them be recorded delivery so that you can check they have been delivered.

We will send any acknowledgement, queries, or responses to your University email account. We do this to be sure that we are reaching the right person. All staff dealing with your complaint can easily find the correct email address for students using the University’s email system.

If you have left the University and no longer have access to your University email account, we will use the email address you provide to us on your Form.

We will acknowledge receipt of the Formal Investigation Complaint Form.

7. What happens next?

An Investigator will be appointed to investigate your complaint. This will usually be a senior manager in the academic department or support service involved.  It may be necessary to ask a senior manager in a different part of the University to investigate your complaint. This might be because an Investigator has a conflict of interest with the subject of your complaint, or might be perceived as having a conflict.

7.1. Fairness of the Investigation

We will conduct our investigation fairly and in accordance with the principles we have set out in the General Guidance on the Student Complaints Procedure.

7.2. Preliminary steps

The Investigator will check that your complaint is something we can deal with under our Student Complaints Procedure and has been received within the time limits.

The Investigator will arrange to meet you, but first they might:

  • see if your case can be resolved through Early Resolution or meditation;
  • ask you for clarification of something in your Form;
  • ask you for more information;
  • ask for clarification of your evidence;
  • ask for additional evidence; and/or
  • send you information to comment on.

We will continue to look for Early Resolution and settlement opportunities in all cases.

7.3. Meeting the Investigator

The Investigator will usually meet with you to discuss your complaint. For Group Complaints, the meeting will be with the Group’s Lead Student.

You can be accompanied at the meeting but you do not have to be.

Please do not worry about meeting the Investigator.  The aim of the meeting is to find out as much as possible about the complaint from your perspective. Depending on how complicated your complaint is, the Investigator may need to have a more than one meeting with you.

The University welcomes complaints, we want to know if things are not working as well as they should, or if standards have fallen below those we expect.  You can take someone with you to the meeting, usually another member of the Edge Hill community, but you do not have to.

If you decide to bring someone with you, we recommend it is someone from the Edge Hill Students’ Union as they are familiar with student issues and University procedures.

Check your University email account regularly so that you can respond promptly to any queries we have.  A prompt response to queries will help us progress your complaint.

7.4. Before the meeting

It will help you to read through your Form and supporting evidence before you meet the Investigator.

Make yourself some bullet point notes of everything you want the Investigator to know about your complaint.  It is helpful to put any notes you make in chronological order.

If you have previously tried to resolve your complaint at the Early Resolution stage, think about why you remain dissatisfied with the outcome.

If you want to refer the Investigator to any supporting evidence, make a note of which parts are particularly important to you.  If you have a lot of evidence, it is helpful to put it in a ring binder.  Use page markers and a highlighter pen to help you organise which documents, or parts of documents, you would particularly like to emphasise for the Investigator.

7.5. At the meeting

The meeting will be held in private, usually in a meeting room or the Investigator’s office.  They will have allowed enough time for you to explain your complaint fully.  The Investigator will listen and may then ask questions for clarification or to obtain further information.  You can ask questions too.  The Investigator will ask you about the resolution you are seeking but a decision about your complaint will not be made at the meeting.

There will probably be a note-taker at the meeting.  This is usually a member of the University’s administrative staff.  We make a note to record the detail of your complaint to use as a reference point during the investigation and to help us ensure we have an accurate record of the points you raise.  We will send you a copy of the notes we make.

7.6. After the meeting

The Investigator will need to spend some time reading documents and talking to other people who are involved in your complaint, or who can provide additional information or clarification.  Actions the Investigator may take include, but are not limited to:

  • speaking to staff;
  • speaking to other people who may help with fact finding, for example witnesses you have brought to our attention;
  • further consideration of the documents you have provided; and/or
  • consideration of other documents which may come to light during the investigation.

The Investigator may need to speak to you again or may contact you by telephone or email with further queries or to request additional information.

Once the Investigator has completed their investigation they will make a decision and send you a written outcome to your complaint.  The outcome letter may be quite long as it will include the background to your complaint, the evidence considered, the decision, and the reasons for the decision.

Decisions are evidence-based and our written response will include the reasons for the outcome reached.

We use the ‘balance of probabilities’ to decide whether a fact in dispute is more likely than not to have occurred.

8. How long will it take?

We are usually able to notify you of the outcome within 36 calendar days of receiving your request for a Formal Investigation.

Sometimes it can take longer, for example, if the information needed takes a long time to collect, or the case is highly complex.  If it is going to take longer than 36 days we will inform you and explain the reasons for the delay.  We will give you an indication of revised timescales where possible.

Once the Investigator has reached a decision they will write to you to inform you of the outcome and the reasons for their decision.

Check your University email account regularly as there is a time limit if you wish to take your complaint further.

9. Possible outcomes

Your complaint outcome will usually be described as:

  • This means we have upheld your complaint.
  • Partly Justified. This means we have upheld some parts of your complaint but not others.
  • Not Justified. This means we have rejected your complaint.

If your complaint is held to be Justified or Partly Justified, the Investigator will offer you a resolution to your complaint.  The aim is find a practical solution to help resolve your complaint. We might also issue an apology, recommend changes to current practice and procedures, or staff training.

10. Next steps

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Formal Investigation, you can request a Review on limited grounds.  There is separate Student Guidance on requesting a Review.

There is a time limit to request a Review.

You must complete a Review Request Form and ensure it reaches [email protected] within 14 calendar days of the date of the Formal Investigation outcome letter.

Key to Relevant Documents


Articles of Government


Student Complaints Procedure

Student Guidance:

Early Resolution – where to start?

Requesting a Formal Investigation

Requesting a Review


Formal Investigation Complaint Form

Group Complaint Form – Early Resolution or Formal Investigation

Review Request Form

Group Complaint Review Request For

Other documents:

Staff Guidance – A guide for Investigators

Staff Guidance –  A guide for Reviewers

Student Charter

OIA Good Practice Framework: handling student complaints and academic appeals

OIA Good Practice Framework: handling student complaints and academic appeals – delivering learning opportunities with others

OIA Good Practice Framework: supporting disabled students

UK Association for Accessible Formats – Creating clear print and large print documents

OIA Policy on Frivolous or Vexatious Complaints

OIA Behaviour Policy

OIA Guidance on Completion of Procedures Letter