1 Check your T&Cs
If your degree course has been changed, for example, an increase in fees or a change made to the course location, the first thing to do is check your contract.
You will need to read the contract terms and conditions to make sure you know what you signed up to.
What did you sign-up to?
There are two main things to check:
- Is your university or course provider trying to deliver your course in a way that’s different to what was promised in your contract? If so, they may be breaching the contract and you can seek redress.
- Is there a term in your contract that allows your university or course provider to make major changes to your course? If so, this contract term might be unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.
For examples of what constitutes a major change and what your rights are, read our guidance on course changes.
If you think a change has been made to what you agreed in your contract, or you think your university or course provider is relying on an unfair contract term, you can make a complaint to your university.
2 Think about what you were told
Regardless of what your contract says, think about what your university or course provider told you about your course before you signed up.
If they are trying to deliver your course in a way that’s different to what you were told, this could be unfair under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
- Check your contract and make sure you know what you signed up to
- Think about what you were told by your course provider and make notes of any conversations you had with them
- Detail as clearly as possible what the course change is that you're complaining about and how it affects you
- Keep copies of all correspondence to do with your complaint
3 Complain to your university
It’s important that you follow the formal complaints procedure of your university or course provider.
Your course provider's website and handbook should explain how to do this. Your students’ union may also be able to help and provide support.
Try and detail as clearly as possible what the course change is that you are complaining about and what effect this change will, or has, had on you.
Set out any terms of your contract that you believe are being breached or that you think are unfair.
Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence with your university or course provider and keep a record of the dates of this correspondence.
4 Completion of Procedures Letter
You must first progress through your course provider's complaints procedure.
If your provider is a member of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), you should be given a Completion of Procedures Letter which will detail their findings.
If you think you have followed the relevant complaints procedure and have not received this letter, you should write and request one from the person or department who is handling your complaint.
If you're told that you have not completed the procedure, you should ask for clarity on how to do so.
5 Complain to the OIA
Complaining about a university
If you're not happy with your university’s final decision, you can complain to the OIA.
The OIA is an independent organisation whose role is to review individual complaints by students against universities.
It doesn’t have any regulatory powers and cannot punish or fine the university or course provider.
However, if the OIA thinks your complaint has merit, it can recommend that the university takes steps to address your problem including by paying you compensation.
Universities have to abide by the OIA’s rules and follow its recommendations.
You can complain to the OIA by filling in an OIA Complaint Form online or by downloading it. You can also request the form by email, telephone or post.
Any complaint made to the OIA must be received by them within three months of the date of the Completion of Procedures Letter.
If your complaint appears to be a systemic problem rather than a one-off problem that only affects you or your course group, the OIA may contact the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and suggest they look into the issue.
Complaining about a course provider that isn't a university
Further education and sixth-form colleges - teaching anything from foundation to postgraduate courses, as well as some school-based teacher training courses are also covered by the OIA.
If your course provider isn't a member, the OIA should be able to suggest other organisations that may be able to help you.
For example, a professional body if you're taking a professional course, a student body if there is one affiliated to the provider, a support agency if you're a student from overseas, or potentially the British Accreditation Council if the provider concerned is a member.
6 If you study in Scotland
If you're studying at a Scottish university, you can take your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.