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Legal Literacy: Understanding Your Rights as a University Student in the UK
30th Dec, 2023

Legal Literacy: Understanding Your Rights as a University Student in the UK

If you are a student in the United Kingdom and come across situations where you feel you were not treated well, you need to speak up. There are several rights for students in the United Kingdom to protect them from any ill practices.

You may feel out of place, but be aware that there is legal support available for you at all times. May it be about your student accommodation in the UK, your grades or unfair treatment at your university. There are times when students are not confident and unaware of their legal rights. This can often make you feel under confident and stressed about a few situations.


The OIA ( Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education) is an independent body that is there to support complaints from students. There was a massive hike in the number of complaints by students in the previous years. You may find it astonishing but the amount offered as compensation went up to £792,504. You can complain to the OIA free of cost and expect professional assistance.

Reasons for complaints from students at University

The following are some of the most common reasons students complain
  1. Sexual harassment that involves a student and a staff member from the university
  2. When poor facilities are offered and what was promised is not delivered
  3. In terms of discipline when some members of the staff at the university are biased
  4. Loss of teaching due to an indirect industrial action in the country
  5. When students are not happy about the degree appreciation from the university
  6. Complaints from disabled students for not being treated equally at the university
  7. Lack of provision regarding the amount of tuition fees paid for a degree
  8. Steps students need to follow to make a complaint
If you ever come across a situation where you feel the need to raise a complaint, the following are the steps you need to keep in mind.

Get in touch with your tutor

Please explain the issue you are facing to your tutor, they might have a helping hand and speak to the university on your behalf. They are bound to understand your situation as they have been dealing with students in several situations. You can also get in touch with someone at your student accommodation in the UK.

Know your university complaint policy

Every university has a unique complaint policy. You need to be aware of the policy that is in place at your university. If you are aware of all the details it will make it easier for you. Often, there are situations where complaints have a period you need to make them in.

Have a detailed and well-claimed complaint

Take your time to file a complaint. Make sure you are mentioning all your issues and are looking for a solution. Do not scrape off important details as this may make or break your case. For any complaint to be looked into or for justice to be provided there needs to be sufficient proof. Make sure you have proof of what you are complaining about.

CMA's rights for students

The Consumer and Marketing Authority (CMA) has overseen university compliance with consumer law since 2015. Before you go ahead with the complaint process, it is advisable to verify if your grievance falls within the scope of breaches that they address.

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Look for other helpful resources

You can get in touch with someone from the student community. Students are happy to help other students in tough situations. You can also look for help from senior students at your student accommodation in the UK. You might be lucky to find someone who understands your situation and is ready to back you morally.

Make a formal complaint

Put down a formal complaint by adhering to your university guidelines. At this time you may find yourself to be very emotional but bear in mind that this is a formal complaint. Keep it precise and to the point. Add examples and sufficient proof if possible.

COP Letter

Your university must send you a Completion of Procedure letter once you have put down a formal complaint. This may take days, weeks or months in some cases.


In case you have received an update on your complaint and you are not happy with the outcome, we encourage you to appeal to the ombudsman.

Different parts of the UK have different ombudsman.
  • England and Wales – The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)
  • Scotland – Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)
  • Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO)
You can only reach out to an ombudsman if you have completed the entire process of filing a complaint with your university. You will have the luxury of 12 months to complain to the ombudsman from the date of your COP.

Appeal on your final grade

This is by far the most common complaint received from university students. The decision on this appeal will be taken by the exam board.

Again you will need to put all of this as a formal appeal and abide by the guidelines set by your university.

Student Accommodation Rights

No matter if you are living at a university accommodation or a student accommodation in the UK, you have your set of rights. A landlord can only initiate eviction proceedings through a court-issued possession order. If you have a periodic agreement, the landlord must provide you with a four-week notice before expressing their intention to evict.

You need to know that you are never alone, you always have the right legal support available for you. All you need to do is be mindful of the process and the guidelines. Everything needs to be done formally and cannot be done when you are emotional. Keep your emotions out of your complaint and be precise about your situation. We hope the above information makes you feel confident if you ever need to file a complaint.
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