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Further and Higher Education – New Documents

Monday, January 21, 2013

Model Complaints Handling Procedures (CHPs), for both the Higher Education sector and the Further Education sector were published on 19th December 2012.  Both Model CHPs (and the respective customer facing guides to the complaints procedure) are now available in ‘word format’ and can be found here:

Higher Education:

Further Education:

The model CHPs are provided in word format as a template for universities and colleges to adopt.  From our work with the local government and housing sectors we have found that adopting the model CHP in its entirety will ensure that the establishment meets the SPSO’s test of compliance.

We recognise the importance of providing scope to adapt the model CHP to reflect, for example, the institution’s organisational structure, operational processes and corporate style.  Therefore, each model CHP outlines areas where the university or college may adapt the CHP to provide additional guidance or reference to local processes.  As an example, the roles and responsibilities in relation to signing-off complaints should be amended to suit individual establishments’ circumstances.  Similarly, internal processes for recording complaints or for approving extensions to timescales will vary across organisations, and the CHP should be adapted to reflect this.

Scope is also given to amend the language of the model CHP to comply with corporate writing conventions or style guides.  We appreciate that the way in which a university or college presents its documented procedures is extremely important.  An organisation’s corporate identity puts its stamp on the services it delivers and we understand the importance of presenting one single corporate brand for all products and services.

For this reason there is flexibility for establishments to adapt the model CHP to ensure that, together with any supporting documentation developed by the establishment (for example staff guidance and complaints forms), their CHP reflects the university or college’s corporate identity and language.

However, it is very important to note that the model CHP should not amended to the extent that its purpose or substance is changed in a way which does not reflect the sector’s model CHP, or its key aims.  In particular, the following elements of each model CHP should not be amended given the importance of ensuring a standardised approach across the public sector in Scotland:

  • The definition of a complaint (although further guidance or examples may be included as indicated in the CHP)
  • The number of stages
  • Timescales at each stage
  • The requirements to record, reporting and publicise complaints information.

It is also important that the information contained in the guide for students CHPs is adopted in full by each establishment.  The information presented may be included in a form appropriate to the university or college (for example, through leaflets or the organisation’s website) or as part of wider information on how a customer can provide feedback.  There may also be further information providing context but the information for customers should remain consistent with the published customer-facing CHP.

Finally, a reminder that each university and college should, by 28th June 2013, provide the SPSO with a compliance statement, and a self-assessment of compliance to confirm that their CHP complies with the published Model CHP, or will comply with the published Model CHP by 30 August 2013.  All Universities and Colleges are required to have implemented the model CHP by 30 August 2013.

If you require further information or guidance in relation to the Model CHP, please contact the CSA directly at

Updated: March 8, 2017