The governance of complaints in UK higher education: critically examining ‘remedies’ for staff sexual misconduct

Anna Bull, Tiffany Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Complaints processes and their governance in UK higher education (HE) have received little critical scrutiny, despite their expanded role under the increasing marketisation of HE. This article draws on interviews with students who attempted to make complaints of staff sexual misconduct to their HE institution. It outlines four groups among the interviewees according to the ‘remedy’ that they obtained, describing how most interviewees could not access the services of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England as they could not complete internal institutional complaints processes. The failure of most complainants to obtain remedy, and the difficult experiences of those who did, reveals the inadequacies of using an individualist, consumer-oriented model for addressing discrimination complaints in HE. The article also contributes to discussions of justice for sexual violence survivors, suggesting that community-oriented remedies are needed alongside formal administrative justice processes to address power-based sexual misconduct in institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-49
JournalSocial & Legal Studies
Issue number1
Early online date16 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022


  • complaints
  • governance
  • higher education
  • justice
  • staff sexual misconduct
  • students

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