12.4 Frivolous, vexatious or malicious complaints or academic appeals

1. Students will not suffer any disadvantage or recrimination as the result of making a complaint or academic appeal in good faith. Only if a complaint or academic appeal is judged to have been made frivolously (i.e. with no serious purpose or value), vexatiously (i.e. it is distressing or annoying) or with malice (i.e. the desire to inflict harm or suffering), could disciplinary issues arise in relation to the student. (See Aberystwyth University Disciplinary Procedure).

2. The University is committed to dealing with all complaints and academic appeals transparently and fairly and in line with its published procedures. However, the University reserves the right to consider a complaint or academic appeal frivolous, vexatious or malicious for the reasons below, though this list is not exhaustive:

(i) Complaints or academic appeals which are obsessive, harassing, or repetitive

(ii) Insistence on pursuing non-meritorious complaints or academic appeals and/or unrealistic, unreasonable outcomes

(iii) Insistence upon pursuing meritorious complaints or academic appeals in an unreasonable manner

(iv) Complaints or academic appeals which are designed to cause disruption or annoyance

(v) Demands for redress which lack any serious purpose or value.

3. Where it is believed that there is a case to be investigated, a report should be submitted by the relevant department to caostaff@aber.ac.uk. An independent investigator will be appointed by the Academic Registry who will decide whether or not a complaint or academic appeal is vexatious and will take into account all the circumstances of the case when reaching their decision. The independent investigator will consider both the contents of the complaint or academic appeal and the student’s behaviour in relation to the complaint or academic appeal before reaching a decision.

4. A student who is believed to have submitted a frivolous, vexatious or malicious complaint or academic appeal may be subject to the University’s Disciplinary Procedure.

5. Students whose programme of study leads to professional registration may be subject to under the Fitness to Practise Procedure.

6. Students whose behaviour is a cause for concern and where the University considers that there may be an underlying problem may be subject to the Fitness to Attend Procedure.

7. If a decision is taken by the independent investigator that a student’s complaint or academic appeal is vexatious, the Academic Registry will write to the student explaining that they are no longer prepared to engage with the student in relation to the vexatious complaint or academic appeal and the complaint or academic appeal will be rejected. The student will be given a full written explanation for the decision.

8. If students wish to the challenge the decision, they should submit an application for a Final Review to the Complaints and Appeals Office caostaff@aber.ac.uk. The application will be considered by a Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee.

9. The Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee will review the information of the case, including any representations the student has made, and will decide whether the Final Review is to be upheld or rejected. If the Final Review is upheld, the Pro Vice-Chancellor will instruct that the student’s complaint or academic appeal is reviewed in line with the University’s published procedures.

10. The decision of the Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee under the Final Review procedure is final and the student will be informed in writing, by the Academic Registry, of the decision. A Completion of Procedures Letter will be issued to the student, on request.

11. If a student remains dissatisfied with the University’s final decision, the student may submit a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.


12. The University may restrict contact in person, by telephone, email etc. or by any combination of these. The University will try to maintain at least one form of contact with a (frivolous, vexatious or malicious) complainant.

13. The University reserves the right to write to the person concerned, informing them that there will be no direct contact between them and the University. Further communication may be maintained between the University and a third party representative of the person concerned.

14. The University will not deal with communications that are abusive, or contain unsubstantiated allegations. Should such communications be received, the University will advise where it finds the language offensive, unnecessary or unhelpful. The University will ask the person concerned to stop using such language. Students will also be advised that the University will not respond to their communications if their use of offensive language or malicious accusations etc. does not stop. The University may require that future communication takes place via a third party (see above).

15. University staff may end telephone calls or leave a face-to-face meeting where they consider the language or behaviour of the complainant to be aggressive, abusive, or offensive. The member of University staff has the right to make that decision. They should advise the person concerned that their behaviour is unacceptable, and to end the interaction if that behaviour does not immediately stop.

16. Where a complainant repeatedly emails, phones, visits the University, raises repeated issues, or sends large numbers of documents where their relevance is not clear, then the University may decide to:

(i) Limit contact to telephone calls from the complainant at set times on set days

(ii) Restrict contact to a single, named member of University staff who will deal with future calls or correspondence from the complainant

(iii) Arrange to see the complainant by appointment only

(iv) Restrict contact from the complainant to writing only, or from a third party representing the complainant

(v) Return any documents to the complainant or, in extreme cases, advise the complainant that further irrelevant documents will be destroyed

(vi) Suspend access to campus and university buildings


(vii) Take any other action that is considered appropriate.

17. In exceptional cases, the University reserves the right to refuse to consider a complaint or academic appeal or future complaints or academic appeals from an individual. The University will take into account the impact on the individual and also whether there would be a broader public interest in considering the complaint further.

18. The following process will be followed to impose restrictions:

(i) The University will ensure that the complaint is being, or has been, investigated properly according to the complaint or academic appeal process, if appropriate;

(ii) Unless it is not appropriate to do so, the University may first write to a complainant to provide reasonable warning that their behaviour is giving cause for concern. This gives the complainant the chance to consider and to modify any behaviour before any restrictions available through this Policy are applied.

19. The Academic Registrar or nominee will provide to the Pro Vice-Chancellor an assessment of whether the actions/behaviour of a complainant are abusive, persistent or vexatious, or otherwise within the scope of this Policy.

20. A Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee will determine what (if any) restrictions are to be imposed.

21. The University will confirm in writing with the complainant:

(i) Why the University has taken the decision

(ii) What action(s) are being taken

(iii) The duration of that action(s)

(iv) The review process of this decision


(v) The right of the complainant to contact the OIA.

22. Complainants can ask the University to review the decision to impose restrictions, following a determination that a complainant’s behaviour is unacceptable. The grounds for review are limited to:

(i) In reaching a judgment that a complainant’s behaviour is unacceptable, the University has made a substantial error in fact


(ii) Significant, new evidence comes to light. A review will normally be undertaken by a Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee. At review, the Pro Vice-Chancellor or their nominee has the discretion to remove or vary the restrictions as they think best. They will make their decision based on the evidence available to them. Following review, the complainant will be advised in writing of the outcome i.e. that either the restrictions applied by the Pro Vice-Chancellor or nominee still apply or a decision to follow a different course of action has been reached.