Customer Complaints and Feedback

Most people go through their academic career or workplace learning without ever having to make a complaint, and we hope that your learning progresses smoothly too. However, we recognise that occasionally things can go wrong, and we want you to know that there is a comprehensive system that's designed to resolve any complaint you might have.

If you need to make a complaint to SQA, you can use this submission form, e-mail us, or write to us at our postal address. You may submit your complaint in Gaelic. Not every complaint should come straight to us, though. We've provided the guidance on these pages to help you decide who to contact first, and how to proceed.

There are different bodies you can complain to, depending on the circumstances that have affected you. You can complain to:

Students at local authority schools can make a complaint to their local authority.

There are different routes for making complaints depending on what you are complaining about. You will not have to complain to all these bodies, or in this order, as not all of them have responsibility for every aspect of your studies. You can go to our 'how to complain' page for help with this.

What you can complain about and who to complain to

Your centre

Your centre is the organisation that runs the place where you're doing your qualification. It could be your school or college, your employer, a training provider or some other organisation. You might be doing your qualification online, or at a remote site, but the centre is the organisation which enrolled you for your qualification

If something does go wrong, you should always complain to your centre first. Your centre is responsible for the delivery of your programme (ie the way you are taught or trained, and the facilities and resources available) and for some types of assessment ('internal assessment', or assessment in the centre). It is also responsible for various other aspects of your experience as a student or trainee, such as the support you receive, the environment it provides, and possibly funding.

SQA (your awarding body)

The Scottish Qualifications Authority is Scotland's national body for qualifications (other than university degrees and some professional qualifications).

The SQA is responsible for ensuring that its qualifications are delivered to the correct standard in centres. So, you can complain to the SQA if you feel that a centre has done something wrong and you haven't been able to resolve this through the centre's own complaints procedure.

Only the SQA can deal with complaints about assessment. Its remit covers assessment in the broadest sense — for example, if you think that a test has been applied inconsistently, or that you have been disadvantaged by an aspect of an assessment, or that your assessor has judged your evidence wrongly, the resources available meant you weren't able to demonstrate your competence to the required standard. In all these cases, you should complain to your centre first. You can then complain to the SQA if the centre has not resolved the issue.

The SQA will not deal with complaints about the wider experience of being a student (eg student support services, funding, student facilities). Any complaints about these issues that have not been resolved through the centre's complaints procedures should go directly to the SPSO.

The SPSO does not have the power to revise course awards. Only the SQA has the power to do this, and you should always approach the SQA through the relevant procedure if this is what you want your complaint to achieve. You must go through your centre's complaint procedure first, though.

Handling anonymous complaints

We value all complaints, including anonymous complaints. We will take action to consider them further whenever it is appropriate to do so. If we do not have enough information to consider an anonymous complaint, we may not be able to look at it. Where there is enough information and it contains serious allegations, the complaint will be investigated and recorded in our complaints handling system.

If you ask SQA not to disclose your identity, we will not do so without your consent. However, it may be more difficult for SQA to look into the matter. Raising an anonymous complaint cannot always provide the same assurances that a full, open statement of your concerns brings.

Appeal before complaining about a grade

If you disagree with a grade you have received, SQA has an appeals procedure for some qualifications. Your centre will have details of how to submit an appeal on your behalf. This procedure must be exhausted before we will consider a complaint about grades.

The SPSO

The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman is the final stage for complaints about public services in Scotland. It takes complaints about most public bodies, including councils, colleges and universities and the Scottish Government and its agencies and departments, including the SQA. You'll find more information about the SPSO and what it does on its own website.

If your centre is a public body (ie a college or a local authority school), you can take your complaint to the SPSO after you have completed the centre's complaints procedure. The SPSO can look at whether there are reasonable procedures in place, and decide whether they have been followed correctly. It can look at complaints about things like the applications procedures for admissions (but not the admission decision itself), services like accommodation, welfare and support, and the procedure followed in academic or disciplinary appeals.

Please note that there are some things that SPSO cannot do, such as getting your grades or final award changed, assess or challenge the merits of academic decisions, or consider an appeal against an institution's decision. It cannot assess the quality of teaching or assessment, although they can look at issues around the learning environment, including the support you have been provided or whether you have been properly prepared for exams.

The SPSO does not have the power to revise course awards and cannot intervene where you are simply disputing the grade you received for an assessment. Only the SQA has the power to do this, and you should always approach the SQA through the relevant procedure if this is what you want your complaint to achieve. If the SPSO finds that an organisation has done something wrong, it will recommend that the organisation puts things right for you. It can ask the organisation to apologise to you, take action to sort out a problem or change how it does things. The SPSO also publishes reports to share the learning from your complaint.

If you are unsure, please contact the SPSO — it will be able to give you advice on your own individual circumstances. Further information is available at www.spso.org.uk 

Qualifications accredited by SQA Accreditation or Ofqual

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has two distinct parts: SQA Accreditation and SQA Awarding Body. Operating separately from the awarding body, SQA Accreditation quality‑assures certain qualifications offered in Scotland. It does this by approving awarding bodies and accrediting their qualifications.

If you're doing an SVQ, or another SQA qualification that is accredited, you may have a right to complain to SQA Accreditation or Ofqual once you have exhausted your centre's complaints procedure and/or your awarding body's procedure. You should have been informed of this when you had your induction at your centre.

If you're doing a qualification (such as an SVQ, or certain qualifications that are regulated) through another awarding body you may have a right to complain to SQA Accreditation once your awarding body's complaints procedure has been exhausted. Your awarding body's complaints procedure will make this clear.

If you're doing a qualification with a centre outside Scotland, you should first raise your complaint with your centre, then SQA awarding body before complaining to the appropriate qualifications regulator.

Handling anonymous complaints

We value all complaints, including anonymous complaints. We will take action to consider them further whenever it is appropriate to do so. If we do not have enough information to consider an anonymous complaint, we may not be able to look at it. Where there is enough information and it contains serious allegations, the complaint will be investigated and recorded in our complaints handling system.

If you ask SQA not to disclose your identity, we will not do so without your consent. However, it may be more difficult for SQA to look into the matter. Raising an anonymous complaint cannot always provide the same assurances that a full, open statement of your concerns brings.

Complaining about services offered by SQA on behalf of other organisations

SQA offers a range of examination and registration services on behalf of other organisations, such as the Department for Transport. The majority of these contracts follow the SQA complaints process and timescales, with the exception of the following contracts, which have specific requirements for complaint handling:

These contracts require SQA to provide you with a response within 10 working days of receiving a complaint. Please contact SQA for further information.

Timescales

The SQA will respond to straightforward complaints within five working days — this will be the vast majority of complaints. Occasionally, if there's a complex investigation, it may take up to twenty working days, but you will be kept informed at every stage. If our investigation into your complaint will take longer than 20 working days, we will tell you.

Need to make a complaint

Alternatively, please write to us at:

Scottish Qualifications Authority
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
Glasgow
G2 8DQ