Accessibility statement

Complaints of misconduct procedure

Make a complaint

This outlines the procedure for investigating student complaints of University staff misconduct

1. Introduction

1.1 The University of York is committed to creating a working, learning, social and living environment which is safe, inclusive and welcoming for everyone. If you feel you have experienced misconduct by a member of staff we strongly encourage you to report it so action can be taken through this procedure.

1.2 Allegations of staff misconduct will be taken seriously and support will be offered. We are committed to investigating such reports fairly, quickly and courteously using this procedure, which is based on the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education Good Practice Framework and the Quality Assurance Agency UK Quality Code, Advice and Guidance: Concerns, Complaints and Appeals.

2. What is this procedure for?

2.1 This procedure supports the University’s complaints procedure for complaints from students and student applicants, the Dignity at Work and Study Policy and the Staff Disciplinary Procedure

2.2 General complaints made by students against staff members will be dealt with under the complaints procedure for complaints from students and student applicants. However, where cases involve allegations of misconduct, the procedure below will be applied instead.

2.3 This procedure applies the same definition of misconduct as the Staff Disciplinary Procedure.

Areas not covered by this procedure

2.4 Matters relating to academic support, teaching, supervision or advice, which should be raised under the complaints procedure for complaints from students and student applicants.

2.5 If you are a student and you want to complain about another student, you should follow our Student Misconduct Procedure.

2.6 If you are a student and are also employed by the University and you want to submit a grievance about a matter relating to your employment, you should follow the Grievance Procedure.

3. Who can submit a complaint

3.1 A complaint can be submitted by current students (including those on Leave of Absence), students who have left the University within the last three months and students on programmes offered by other institutions that lead to a University of York award, once the partner institution’s complaints procedure has been exhausted. 

3.2 A complaint may be submitted by a group of students acting collectively, provided that all named individuals have agreed in writing to this, and it is clear that all signatories to the complaint are facing similar circumstances. In order to manage the process effectively, you will be asked to nominate one person to act as representative and main contact, who will be expected to liaise with the others and keep them informed.

3.3 We may refuse to look at a complaint where you have not been able to demonstrate that you were directly affected. Where appropriate, however, we may refer the matter to another procedure, such as the Staff Disciplinary Procedure.

3.4 Complaints by third parties (ie by individuals or organisations other than the actual complainant) are not normally accepted. However, we may make an exception if a student is deemed incapable of managing their own complaint, and we have clear, informed consent in writing from the student to communicate with the third party. Any such exceptions must be agreed by the Academic Registrar or their nominee. There must be clear evidence to demonstrate that the student is incapable of handling the complaint on their own behalf. In such cases students are encouraged to seek support from members of staff from the YUSU Advice and Support team or the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), who are familiar with the University’s procedures and processes. 

3.5 Anonymous complaints will not normally be considered as this can impede investigation and prevent a resolution, as well as potentially creating unfairness in relation to any allegations made in the complaint against other individuals, such as members of staff. Exceptionally, such a complaint may be considered if we accept there is a compelling reason, supported by sufficient evidence, for it to be brought anonymously. 

3.6 Frivolous, malicious and/or vexatious complaints will not be accepted. If we consider that a complaint is frivolous, malicious and/or vexatious, this may constitute a disciplinary offence and may be dealt with under the Student Disciplinary Procedure.

4. General principles for investigating complaints

4.1 This procedure has been designed with reference to the Office for the Independent Adjudicator’s Good Practice Framework and the Quality Assurance Agency’s UK Quality Code, Advice and Guidance: Concerns, Complaints and Appeals. In investigating a complaint, we will adhere to the following principles:

  • complaints will be considered as close to the source as possible
  • complaints will be dealt with in a fair, transparent and timely manner and in line with our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy
  • the investigation, and evidence required, will be proportionate to the issues raised
  • students will not be victimised or disadvantaged for bringing a complaint
  • complaints will be monitored and reported on to understand, where possible, the root causes.

4.2 We encourage you to raise any concerns as soon as possible. This enables us to support you and to undertake an effective investigation.

4.3 Staff who investigate complaints must not have been involved in the matters leading to the complaint and must be free from actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

4.4 The standard of proof to be applied shall be that used in civil court cases ie on a balance of probabilities.

4.5 We reserve the right to refuse to investigate or to suspend any investigation if we are made aware that police, legal, court or tribunal proceedings have been initiated in relation to the issues raised in the complaint. Similarly, if there are allegations of a criminal offence, we may refer the matter to the police and suspend our own proceedings until the outcome of any police investigation or criminal proceedings is known, other than where we deem it appropriate to act in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and third parties, including visitors.

4.6 We may also suspend an investigation should it be deemed appropriate on account of health reasons. Suspending an investigation will ‘stop the clock’ on all timescales outlined in this procedure.

4.7 The investigation will so far as reasonably possible deal with the substance of the core concerns identified. However, in complex cases it may not be possible to provide a detailed response to all the matters raised.

4.8 It is expected that all parties involved will act reasonably, fairly and courteously towards each other and respect the processes. If we consider a concern/complaint or behaviour associated with it to be grossly unreasonable, action may be taken as set out in our Communications Policy. In appropriate cases, disciplinary action may be taken through the Staff Disciplinary Procedure or Student Disciplinary Procedure, as appropriate.

5. Stage 1: informal resolution

5.1 Depending on the nature of your complaint, it may be possible to resolve the matter informally through one of the following options:

5.2 Taking personal action

5.2.1 If you feel that you have been, or are being subjected to harassment, bullying or a hate incident by a staff member, you may feel able to take action on your own to make the reported staff member aware of the effect of their behaviour on you and how they may be able to prevent it happening again; this is encouraged where it is appropriate and safe to do so. 

5.2.2 In some cases, the reported staff member may be unaware that their behaviour is having a detrimental impact on another individual or individuals. This is worth considering as it may be a fairly straightforward matter to point out to them what it is that has caused offence or has been interpreted in a particular way and that may be sufficient to prevent a recurrence.

5.2.3 In many situations, taking personal action can be the most effective and relatively simple way to raise concerns and resolve issues. However, you should not feel obliged to raise concerns in this way and should be made aware of the other available options.

5.2.4 You may feel able to have a conversation with, or write to, the other person and explain, as clearly as possible, what it is that you consider to be unacceptable about their behaviour and suggest to them how they may be able to change it.

5.3 Involving an appropriate member of staff

5.3.1 If you have not been able to resolve the issue through a personal approach – or do not wish to follow this route - but still wish to seek informal resolution, you should approach the following to support you in achieving a resolution:

  • your college manager - if the incident or behaviour has occurred within your accommodation, college or social environment 
  • an appropriate academic supervisor or departmental contact - if the incident or behaviour has occurred during a lecture, seminar or associated academic environment, which has or is having an impact on your academic activities. 

5.3.2 You should provide details to your college manager or academic supervisor/departmental contact regarding the incident(s) of alleged harassment, bullying or hate incident.

5.3.3 In all cases of receiving an informal report, the college manager or academic supervisor/departmental contact may seek advice and support from their Head of Department, Human Resources, or the Equality and Diversity Office, and will work with you to seek to facilitate an informal resolution to the matter. 

5.3.4 The college manager or academic supervisor/departmental contact will consult with you to decide how to progress it and this should be done in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Bear in mind that the reported staff member may not be aware of the impact their behaviour is having on you.

5.3.5 The college manager or departmental staff member or college manager will take account of the wider implications of any report.  For example, they will consider whether the report may be part of a more systemic pattern of behaviour, one which has been reported previously.

5.3.6 The college manager or departmental contact may decide on a number of actions depending on the nature of the report which may include:

  • fact-finding in order to establish the nature of the situation
  • making recommendations as to how you may resolve the issue yourself (if you have not considered taking personal action in the first instance)
  • facilitating a conversation between both parties to encourage respectful, open and constructive communication
  • negotiating agreed standards of behaviour between the parties involved
  • communications to all parties in order to reinforce appropriate policies, procedures or broad expectations the University has around conduct, respect and institutional values
  • negotiating a way forward between the parties, for example, facilitating – where appropriate – an apology and/or a commitment not to repeat the behaviour
  • referring the matter to the formal complaints procedures in cases where the informal procedures have not provided a satisfactory outcome, or where the matter requires a more formal approach.  

5.3.7 If informal action does not succeed in resolving the issue, or would not be appropriate given the seriousness of the incident, we may consider whether one or more University procedures may be appropriate for it to be referred to.

6. Stage 2: formal complaints procedure

6.1 The formal complaints procedure should be used only where the informal resolution stage has been exhausted, where the complaint relates to the specific actions or inactions by the Head of Department or Professional Service themselves, or where the nature of the complaint is too serious for informal resolution. Advice on this can be sought from or from the YUSU Advice and Support Centre or the GSA.

6.2 You should complete the Staff misconduct formal complaint form (MS Word , 16kb) in detail to enable the issue to be properly investigated, providing any relevant evidence for each specific complaint and indicating any remedy sought. The complaints form will be received by the Complaints Officer, who will act as coordinator in the case. Where the Complaints Officer is unable to act on a complaint (for instance due to prolonged absence, conflict of interest or the seriousness of the complaint), the Academic Registrar will assign another coordinator.

6.3 If at this stage we consider that the matter should be investigated under the Formal Complaints procedure, the coordinator will:

  • acknowledge receipt of the complaint, usually within five working days
  • work with the Academic Registrar, or their nominee, to identify an investigator to carry out the investigation; this will normally be a manager in another department
  • provide a summary report to the Head of Department (or Dean of Faculty where the Head is the subject of the complaint) and HR Partner/HR Advisor for the department concerned informing them that a complaint has been received, outlining the steps taken so far and the next required actions
  • ensure that the member of staff against whom the complaint has been made is informed (normally by line manager or Head of Department) that a complaint has been received and notified of steps to be taken
  • be responsible for updating you and the reported member of staff at all stages of the investigation
  • be responsible for supporting the investigator in meeting timescales and for maintaining the case file
  • ensure you are aware of the appropriate support that is available.

6.4 The investigator will:

  • ensure the matter is considered as soon as reasonably practicable
  • familiarise themselves with the facts of the case and, where appropriate, check that the informal stage has been exhausted; if not, the complaint may be referred to the relevant academic department, college or other appropriate professional service area for further investigation
  • decide whether the complaint should be investigated under the Formal Complaints procedure or whether it would be more appropriately investigated under another procedure, notifying you accordingly.

6.5 The investigator will work with the Academic Registrar, or the coordinator, and the HR Partner/HR Advisor to: 

  • agree the scope of the investigation
  • determine what evidence will be gathered, including who will be interviewed as a potential witness
  • agree timelines for the investigation.

6.6 You will normally be contacted by the coordinator within 10 working days of submitting their complaint. The coordinator will let you know the procedure to be followed and the date by which they expect the investigation to be completed. This should normally be within five weeks of the complaint being received. This timescale may vary where complexities arise in the complaint or other complicating factors. Where the timescale becomes extended, the coordinator will advise you as to progress.

6.7 The procedure for an investigation will normally be as follows, but may be adapted by the investigator to meet the needs of the case:

  • the investigator will meet with you to confirm the details of the complaint
  • the investigator will meet the reported staff member to establish their response to the complaint
  • the investigator will meet with individuals identified as having relevant evidence to contribute to an understanding of the complaint
  • the investigator will, so far as reasonably possible, ensure that any meetings are conducted in a suitable environment with appropriate representation (for example, ensuring the appropriate gender balance when an individual is disclosing incidents of sexual harassment)
  • having considered all the evidence put forward at this stage, including any relevant documents, the investigator will prepare a written report covering the following:
    • details of the allegations being investigated
    • the scope of the investigation
    • how the investigation was carried out
    • the result(s) of the investigation
    • the conclusion(s)/finding(s) of the investigation, together with reasons for arriving at this
    • any recommendations arising from their findings.
  • the report will be forwarded to the Academic Registrar, or their nominee, with a copy to the HR Partner/HR Advisor and the Head of Department
  • at any time during the investigation, the investigator may consider the use of facilitated conversations, where it is deemed appropriate.

6.8 If you are required to attend in person at any time as part of the investigation, you have the right to be accompanied by a registered student or employee of the University and/or an employee of the Students’ Union or Graduate Students’ Association (including full-time officers). However, anyone accompanying you cannot speak for you or attend in your place. Legal representation is not normally allowed.  

6.9 All employees who are the subject of this procedure have the right to be accompanied at any meeting held under the procedure by a trade union representative or work colleague.

6.10 The purpose of the investigation is to establish the facts as far as reasonably possible and determine whether there is a case to answer. Examples of possible recommendations are:

  • take no further action other than, where appropriate, implement or recommend steps that would help to restore reasonable relationships between the parties
  • initiate resolution of the issues. This may be by requiring that the subject of the complaint does something aimed at addressing the issue, for example undertaking specific training and/or other action aimed at remedying matters the investigation may have concluded has substance. If this resolves the situation, the complaint will be closed
  • in some situations it may be appropriate to ask the parties to consider entering into a facilitated conversation. Although this may be attempted at any time before or after a formal investigation, it may be particularly helpful if it is considered at an early stage before the formal procedure is invoked
  • that there are concerns about staff conduct that require the matter to be considered under the Staff Disciplinary Procedure.  The investigator will liaise with the HR Partner/HR Advisor to agree any interim measures to be put in place pending the outcome.  This may include re-allocation of duties, such as supervision responsibilities. 
    • Where it is determined that the matter should proceed under the Staff Disciplinary Procedure, the investigation report and evidence will be shared with the HR Partner/HR Advisor, in such cases a separate investigation under the Staff Disciplinary Procedure may not be necessary.
    • Responsibility for communicating with you will remain with the coordinator, who will address expectations about confidentiality (see section 9).
  • if the investigator is satisfied that the complaint is vexatious, malicious or otherwise not made in good faith, appropriate action may be taken in accordance with Regulation 7.

6.11 After the investigation is completed, you will receive a letter from the Academic Registrar stating the outcome of the complaint and giving reasons for any decision made and brief details of how it was arrived at. If the matter is referred to the Staff Disciplinary Procedure, further details of any action taken against the staff member will not be shared due to staff confidentiality.

6.12 If you accept a proposed remedy, it shall be in full and final settlement to resolve the complaint and will be implemented as soon as reasonably practicable.

6.13 If you remain dissatisfied following the investigation, you may request a review of the decision within 10 working days of the date of the response, providing that your request meets the stated grounds for review (see Stage 3).

7. Stage 3: review

7.1 You may request a review of the outcome of the formal complaint investigation by emailing the Academic Registrar at within 10 working days of the date of the outcome letter from Stage 2. The Complaints Officer will normally acknowledge receipt of the request within five working days.

7.2 You may request a review of your complaint on the following grounds:

  • if you have new evidence that you were unable to provide, with good reason, during the Stage 2 investigation
  • if you have evidence that Stage 2 of this procedure was not properly followed.

7.3 Your request must set out the grounds for the proposed review and provide the evidence to support it. 

7.4 The Academic Registrar, or their nominee, may reject a request for a review if it is received outside the deadline, without good reason for the delay. The Academic Registrar may also reject a request for a review if no evidence or substantive argument is provided.

7.5 Where a review is to be conducted, the Academic Registrar or their nominee will assign the case to an appropriate senior member of staff. This is normally a Dean, Associate Dean, Pro-Vice-Chancellor or Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (for academic matters) or a relevant senior professional services lead (for professional service matters). The reviewer will have had no previous involvement in the case.

7.6 The following outcomes are available to the reviewer:

  • to uphold the findings of the stage 2 complaint
  • to overturn the findings of the stage 2 complaint and substitute a new decision
  • to uphold the findings of the stage 2 complaint but offer a different remedy.

7.7 The review stage should be completed within five weeks under normal circumstances. This timescale may vary where complexities arise in the complaint or other factors. Where the timescale becomes extended, you will be kept informed as to progress. In any event, we will endeavour to complete the formal complaints procedure and review within 90 days wherever possible, subject to any forced or requested delays on your part.  

7.8 On completion of the review, the Academic Registrar will send you a letter outlining the decision. Where the decision is that the complaint is not justified a Completion of Procedures letter will be issued (see 8.2). If the complaint is upheld, you may request a Completion of Procedures letter by contacting the Academic Registrar at

8. Next steps

8.1 If you remain dissatisfied after the completion of the University’s complaints procedure, you may apply to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to seek an independent review of your complaint, subject to its eligibility rules.

8.2 Information about submitting a complaint to the OIA is available at OIA website and is also detailed in the Completion of Procedures letter (see 7.8). Any complaint must be lodged with the OIA within 12 months of the date of the Completion of Procedures letter. You can get advice on this procedure from YUSU or the GSA.

8.3 If the complaint is in relation to any debt or money advice service delivered by the University, you may be able to refer the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

8.4 If the complaint is in relation to any immigration advice service delivered by the University, you may be able to refer the complaint to the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner

9. Record-keeping and confidentiality

9.1 We will keep detailed records of the formal complaint submission, investigation and outcome, as well as of any review, for a minimum of 12 months after the complaint is closed. If you apply to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to investigate a complaint, we will keep the records for a minimum of six months after the OIA has closed its case. Anonymised data will be maintained for reporting purposes.

9.2 Information received during the investigation will normally only be used for addressing the complaint. However, if information is shared with us, which we are obliged to share due to the University’s safeguarding, fitness to practise or other legal or professional obligations, we will do so. Where allegations are deemed very serious, or raise broader issues of concern, we may decide to continue our investigations even if you subsequently withdraw your complaint.

9.3 Information received during the investigation will remain confidential to those involved in the process and those who may need to be consulted in order to reach an outcome. No third party should be told any more than is reasonably necessary to obtain the information required from them. If a complaint against a member of staff is upheld, you will be advised of this but we cannot share specific personal details affecting individual members of staff, particularly when disciplinary action has been taken.

9.4 You are also asked to adhere to an appropriate level of confidentiality until the complaints procedure has concluded.

10. Reporting

10.1 To ensure we can monitor and respond to complaints, anonymised data will be reported annually to Council, University Teaching Committee and the York Graduate Research School Board.

11. Help and advice

11.1 If you are considering making a complaint, help and advice about how to do it and where you should send it are available from any of the following:  

For all students:

For graduate students: 

Departmental undergraduate or graduate student handbooks and, for research students, the Policy on Research Degrees may also help with any problem of a departmental or supervisory nature.

Document control

Approval body  Student Life Committee
Policy Owner Academic Registrar
Responsible Service Student Administration and Academic Affairs
Policy Manager Student Administration Manager (Complaints)
External regulatory and/or legal requirement addressed Office of the Independent Adjudicator; Good Practice Framework 123-134
Equality Impact Assessment No assessment has been carried out, to be considered during next review
Approval date August 2020
Effective from 1 September 2020
Date of next review   2024/25


Appendix 1: Roles and responsibilities

Complaints Officer The Complaints Officer will act as coordinator for the complaint. Where the Complaints Officer is unable to act on a complaint (for instance due to prolonged absence, conflict of interest or the seriousness of the complaint), the Academic Registrar will assign another coordinator. 
Coordinator (normally the Complaints Officer) The coordinator will: work with the Academic Registrar or their nominee to identify an investigator, ensure all relevant parties are communicated with during the investigation, support the investigator in meeting timescales, take notes during meetings; maintain the case file, ensure the complainant is aware of appropriate support available to them. The coordinator will draft the outcome letter and Completion of Procedures letter on behalf of the Academic Registrar.
Investigator (normally a manager in another department) The investigator will: decide whether the matter should be investigated under this procedure and whether there is scope for informal resolution, work with the Academic Registrar, or their nominee, and the HR Partner/HR Advisor to agree the scope of the investigation, the evidence to be gathered, and timelines, and communicate this to the complainant, conduct the investigation and produce a report with recommendations for the Academic Registrar. 
HR Partner or Advisor The HR representative will provide advice throughout on HR matters including whether interim measures should be put in place. Where the investigation indicates there is a case to answer, the HR representative will ensure the matter is referred to the Staff Disciplinary Procedure.
Academic Registrar The Academic Registrar will nominate an investigator and make a decision on the investigator’s findings. Where a review is requested, the Academic Registrar will decide whether there are grounds to conduct it and assign a reviewer.
Reviewer The reviewer will consider the procedures involved in the investigation and whether the outcome was fair and proportionate given the information available. Where new evidence is presented, the reviewer will consider whether the outcome may have been different if the evidence was available earlier.
Employee The employee will be expected to answer allegations or complaints made under this procedure. They will be provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegations during the investigation.