Higher education student complaints

I have a complaint about my university/higher education provider. Where do I go for help?

Please note: the information on this page is relevant to you if you are enrolled at a university/higher education provider.

If you are enrolled in a vocational education and training qualification at an approved VET FEE-HELP provider, and you want to make a complaint, the information on how to do so is available here.

General information

Your provider must have a grievance/complaints and appeals procedure for you to access if you have an academic or non-academic complaint. The instructions for how to lodge a complaint will be available on your provider’s website, usually located with its other student policies/procedures.

This means that your provider should always be your first point of call for any complaints about your study and/or the service you have received from it or its agents. Your provider has a responsibility to you, to try and resolve any matters relating to its operations.

Complaints will either be academic in nature (for example, you may have a disagreement over a grade, assignment or tutor/lecturer) or non-academic (for example, in relation to fees, harassment, discrimination or a policy breach).

Tip: it is recommended that you keep written records and copies of all correspondence/interactions with your provider. This will be particularly important in case there are further disputes in the process, and/or to prove your situation if you have to escalate your request.

If you are seeking to have your HELP debt cancelled under the ‘special circumstances provisions’, go here for more information.

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Making an informal complaint

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, and if you feel comfortable in doing so, you may wish to approach your tutor or a person at your provider’s student administration/enrolments area with whom you feel comfortable, to try and resolve the matter informally.

You can always have a friend or support person with you when talking to your provider.

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Making a formal complaint

This is a formal process so you must lodge your complaint with your provider via their official form which should be available from its website. If you lodge a formal complaint, your provider must give you a response within the timeframe outlined in its policy.

*Internal appeal
If you disagree with your provider’s decision, you can lodge an internal appeal. The appeal must be considered by an independent senior officer or by a dedicated complaints committee at your provider. Your provider’s policy must include a reasonable timeframe for the response.

*External review of internal appeal
If you disagree with your provider’s decision on your internal appeal, you can ask for your complaint to be reviewed by the external person or body nominated by your provider (the details of whom you must contact in this situation will be in your provider’s formal complaints policy).

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Final avenue for external appeal

If you are not satisfied with the outcome after following your provider’s formal complaint process, and going through its internal and external review procedures, and you still believe your provider is either treating you unfairly or is breaching/has breached its legal requirements, see the contacts below as your final appeal avenues.

The contacts here will generally not assess your complaint unless you can demonstrate you have already tried to resolve your grievance with your provider via its formal complaints process.

Process for public providers

If you are studying with a public provider (i.e. a TAFE or public university) and your complaint relates to a perceived breach of your provider’s policies and procedures (i.e. it didn’t follow the steps it said it would in its formal complaints process), you can lodge an external appeal with the Ombudsman in the state or territory where your provider is located.

The contact details for these Ombudsman Offices are:

Process for private providers

If you are studying at a private provider, you can lodge your complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC will only have jurisdiction (i.e. the power) to investigate complaints that are in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Visit the ACCC website for details on how to submit a complaint.

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What does TEQSA do?

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is the regulator for the higher education sector in Australia. If your complaint relates to quality issues (i.e. the quality of your course/tutor/lecturer), you can contact them to lodge a complaint. However, you need to be aware that TEQSA does not respond directly to student complaints but notes them as part of its quality assurance and compliance process.

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