Academic appeals, complaints, and grievances

The University aims to address academic appeals, complaints and grievances through a fair, transparent, timely and restorative process.

The University's restorative process is followed in accordance with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and protects the student(s) and staff involved.

Staff who receive a complaint must, in a timely manner, make a genuine attempt to resolve the issue, or escalate it to an appropriate colleague or, if the issue is not a valid concern, to explain that to the student. Staff should also ensure the student has access to appropriate pastoral care support.

  • The Student Interest and Conflict Resolution team are available to provide advice and support to you throughout the appropriate process(es).
  • VUWSA Advocacy Services can provide support and advice that is independent from the University. This includes making a joint complaint about issues that impact a class.
  • You may bring a support person to any discussions, for example the advisory and support services offered by the VUWSA Advocacy Services, Āwhina, Pasifika Student Success or Disability Services, a friend or whānau member, or a support person from an external community-based organisation.

If you are concerned about a staff conduct matter, read our information about this complaint process.

If you are concerned about an academic decision

If you are concerned about an academic decision, you may pursue the matter as outlined below.

An appeal process

Where a statute, policy, regulation, or procedure provides an appeal process, if you are concerned about a decision made under that policy document you must use that process. The outcome of an appeal is final unless there is new or additional evidence.

For instance, appeals against:

  • admission or enrolment decisions are dealt with under the Admission and Enrolment Regulations.
  • grade decisions related to assessment items or aegrotat applications are dealt with in the Assessment Handbook.
  • the outcome of a Master’s thesis examination is dealt with under the Masters’ Thesis Regulations.
  • certain constraints on enrolment in a PhD are dealt with under the Doctoral Regulations.
  • decisions in respect of fees are dealt with under the Fees Policy.

An academic complaint

Where no appeal process is provided within a policy document or you believe the original appeal process did not comply with the University’s policies, regulations or procedures, you may submit a complaint as follows:

  • A complaint should be submitted to the person who made the decision, or if you are not comfortable doing that, it may be submitted to the decision-maker’s manager, their Head of School or the relevant Associate Dean.
  • A complaint must be in writing and must set out the basis for your concern, outlining why you are making the complaint and what you are seeking as an ideal outcome.
  • Complaints are dealt with through an informal and restorative process as close as possible to the source of the concern, but you may escalate a complaint to the next most senior decision maker within the faculty/service unit providing you can either supply new or additional information to support your case or you can substantiate an argument as to why the original decision did not comply with University’s policies, regulations or procedures. It is not sufficient to simply disagree with the decision and to want it examined by a more senior staff member.
  • A complaint should normally be submitted within 10 working days of being notified of the decision causing concern.

A formal academic grievance

Where the informal complaint process has been exhausted and you still have unresolved concerns, you may submit a formal academic grievance. Refer to the Academic Grievance Policy for detailed processes and requirements relating to academic grievances.

Any academic grievance must be submitted to the Academic Office by emailing

An academic grievance must be in writing and include all relevant information, including details of the preceding complaint and any other supporting evidence.

Any academic grievance must be based on an adverse and unjustified impact on your academic performance or programme of study caused by one or more of:

  • a change in University statutes, policies, regulations or procedures;
  • advice given by staff of the University;
  • a decision made by staff of the University; or
  • course delivery, assessment or administrative processes that are not consistent with University statutes, policies, regulations or procedures.

You have the right to withdraw an academic grievance at any time.

Resolution of academic complaints and academic grievances

In considering any complaint, a staff member may consult other staff, including the Academic Office, as appropriate.

Staff and students involved in an academic complaint or academic grievance must:

  • treat all parties with courtesy and respect;
  • respect the rights of all parties to privacy and confidentiality; and
  • provide full and accurate information to the person(s) investigating the complaint or grievance.

The respondent to an academic complaint or academic grievance must be provided with sufficient details of the complaint or grievance to enable them to formulate a response, and they must have opportunity to provide their response.

All correspondence relating to an academic complaint or academic grievance will be recorded and made available to affected people.

All parties will be advised in writing of the outcome and any decision relating to the complaint or grievance.

When a complaint or grievance might be dismissed

Any academic complaint or academic grievance must be submitted in good faith, that is: honest, sincere and without ill intent. A complaint or grievance that is identified as frivolous and/or vexatious will be dismissed as early in the process as possible and may result in disciplinary action. A complaint or grievance will be identified as frivolous or vexatious when the substance is recognised as any of the following:

  • trivial;
  • without merit;
  • not in good faith;
  • pursued with undue persistence or with malice; or
  • already considered by the University and satisfactory measures taken to resolve the matter.