Ākonga (student) complaints procedure

Effective 1 January 2023

1. Purpose

The purpose of this procedure is to outline how to raise, investigate and resolve formal complaints at Unitec in accordance
with the Ākonga Concerns and Complaints Policy

2. Scope

2.1 This procedure applies to complaints from ākonga that may include:
a. The actions and behaviour of other ākonga or kaimahi.
b. Administrative systems, services or decisions.
c. Te Pūkenga compliance with the Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 (the Code).
d. Access to regulations, policy, or procedures that affect ākonga.

2.2 For complaints relating to course or programme, or an enrolment or admission decision please refer to Academic Complaints Procedure.

3. Support and Advocacy

The following support services are available to assist ākonga with providing advice and support during the complaints process:

a) Student Support Advisors.
b) International Student Support Services.
c)  Student Advocate.
d) Student Council.
e) Pae Arahi.
f) Marae team.
g) The Pacific Centre.
h) Unitec Pathways College.
i) External support e.g. Citizens Advice Bureau.

4. Resolving a concern informally

In many circumstances using informal channels such as raising the issue with the other relevant party directly or asking a kaimahi for assistance, may lead to a satisfactory outcome sooner. Refer to the Guidelines for resolving complaints informally for further information.

5. Formal complaints process

Where a concern cannot be resolved informally Unitec has the following formal complaints processes:
a) To raise a formal Academic Complaint outlined in 2.2 above, refer to the Academic Complaint Procedures.
b) To formally appeal ākonga disciplinary decision refer to the Ākonga Appeals Policy, and complete the Unitec Appeal form.
c) To raise a formal complaint related to Te Puna Waiora Medical Centre refer to the Medical Centre’s Complaint Management Policy.
d) For all other concerns, Unitec’s formal complaints process is as outlined in the sections below.

6. Raising and receiving a formal complaint

a) To make a complaint ākonga must complete a Notice of Complaint form.  Email the completed form to studentcomplaint@unitec.ac.nz and cc any people supporting you in the process.
b) Upon receipt the Notice of Complaint will be registered on Unitec’s Ākonga Complaints Register and forwarded to the relevant Executive member or manager within 3 working days.
c) Acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint will be sent to the person making the complaint (the Complainant) and any support person(s) within 3 working days of receipt.
d) The Executive or relevant manager receiving the complaint must consider if they are sufficiently without bias to investigate the complaint. If they are not, they must delegate the responsibility to another suitable person. They may also choose to delegate the responsibility for other reasons. The person so delegated will become the Investigator. Delegation must be decided within 3 working days of receipt. The notice of delegation must be copied (cc’d via email) to studentcomplaint@unitec.ac.nz.

7. Investigating a complaint

a) The Investigator upon receiving a Notice of Complaint must within 3 working days introduce themselves via email or other means to All Parties as the primary investigator for the investigation and begin the investigation, and from then on provide weekly updates to All Parties.  At the time of introduction, the Investigator must provide a copy of the Notice of Complaint to the Respondent and any other kaimahi or ākonga named in the Notice of Complaint. The investigator may share the Notice of Complaint with the support person if requested on the proviso that it remains confidential with the support person.
b) Where the Respondent is a kaimahi the Investigator must liaise with the relevant People and Culture Business Partner as per section 3.7 of Te Kawa Maiorooro.
c) The Investigator must act in accordance with other relevant policies listed in section 6 of the Ākonga Concerns and Complaints Policy and liaise with the appropriate people as required, including Te Pūkenga or Unitec Legal Counsel (regarding ākonga misconduct).
d) Where possible, the Investigator will arrange to meet with the Complainant, the Respondent and any witnesses separately and will advise them that they may bring a support person to any meetings. Any person making a statement needs to verify the accuracy of their statement. This may be done by signing and dating the statement in front of a witness.
e) The investigator will document each step of their investigation, including dates, who was present, what was discussed and what resolution, if any, was reached.
f) Unitec will endeavor to resolve complaints within 30 days of receipt of the Notice of Complaint, and the Investigator will notify all parties if a longer timeframe is required with reasons.
g) Where no response is received from a Complainant within 30 days of Unitec sending the Complainant any correspondence requiring a response, Unitec may decide not to proceed with the complaint process.

8. Resolving a complaint

a) Following the investigation, the Investigator will provide a report together with all relevant documentation and recommendation for resolution to the Executive or relevant manager who received the Notice of Complaint. To ensure complaints are dealt with in accordance with Te Pūkenga and Unitec policies, the People and Culture Business Partner must be consulted before any recommendations that affect kaimahi are made or documented.
b) The Executive or relevant manager must make a decision on the complaint and notify that decision to the Complaints officer, in writing (via email or letter), within the time period specified in 5.3(d) of the Ākonga Concerns and Complaints Policy. If there is a likelihood of bias the decision maker should seek advice from another member of the Executive or another manager to ensure their decision is bias free.
c) The Complaints Officer reports outcome received from the Executive or relevant manager to all parties. This includes notification about any appeal or other rights.
d) The Executive or relevant manager must also complete the Ākonga Complaint Investigation and Decision Report form and email it to studentcomplaint@unitec.ac.nz.

9. Appealing a decision made under section 8

a) For grounds and process to appeal a decision made under section 8 refer to the Ākonga Appeals Policy.
b) Where the complainant is not satisfied with an Appeal outcome via 9a (above) they may make a further appeal to Te Ohu Whakahaere Appeals (a subcommittee of Te Poari Akoranga, Te Pūkenga Academic Board), or make a complaint to NZQA, the Commerce Commission, the Privacy commission, the Ombudsman or other relevant external agencies.

10. Further information

a) The Education (Pastoral Care of Tertiary and International Learners) Code of Practice 2021 confirms the government’s expectations of tertiary and international education providers to support the wellbeing and safety of their ākonga.

b) Ākonga complaints about Unitec’s compliance with the Code of Practice.
If ākonga nō Aotearoa | domestic ākonga or ākonga nō tāwāhi | international ākonga have a complaint about Unitec’s compliance with the Code of Practice, they should try and resolve it by using the above process in the first instance. If their complaint is not resolved, they can take their complaint to one of the following agencies:

NZQA (domestic and international)
NZQA handles all complaints about alleged non-compliance with the Code of Practice, other than financial and contractual disputes.

iStudent Complaints (international)
iStudent Complaints is the appointed operator of the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme, which was set up to resolve financial and contractual disputes for international ākonga. Code signatories are required to comply with the International Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme Rules 2016.

Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution (domestic)
Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution is the appointed operator of the Education (Domestic Tertiary Student Contract Dispute Resolution Scheme, which was set up to resolve financial and contractual disputes for domestic tertiary ākonga.

11. Definitions

Ākonga making a formal complaint.  Where a group of ākonga lodges a complaint, the group must nominate one member of the group as the Complainant who will receive all communications on behalf of the group.

The person or corporate entity who or which is the subject of the formal complaint.

A (current, past, and future) domestic tertiary learner, international tertiary learner, or industry trainee or apprentice.
A person who is involved in learning and/or assessment (at an education and training provider or in the workplace, etc.).


  • Ākonga Māori | Māori learner.
  • Ākonga nō Aotearoa | Domestic learner.
  • Ākonga nō tāwāhi | International learner.
  • Ākonga nō Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa | Pacific learner.
  • Ākonga Whai Kaha | Disabled learner.

Executive or relevant manager
The person who receives the Notice of Complaint, delegates to an Investigator and makes a decision in relation to the complaint.

  • If the complaint is about academic matters (other than academic grade decisions) it is the relevant Head of School (HoS).
  • If the complaint is about a service it is the relevant Service Group manager.
  • If the complaint is about another ākonga, it is the HoS of the programme in which the Respondent is enrolled.
  • If the complaint is about a kaimahi it is the kaimahi’s Head of School or relevant manager.

The relevant member of kaimahi designated to investigate the complaint and provide the findings of the investigation to the Executive or manager to make a decision.

All Parties
All parties involved in the complaint such as the Complainant, Student Advocates, Student President, Legal Counsel, Student Complaints Officer (studentcomplaint@unitec.ac.nz), Respondent, Investigator, International Student Support Services, Human Resources Business Partner, and the Executive or relevant manager.

Complaints Officer

  • Monitors the Student Complaints email inbox and acknowledges receipt.
  • Manages and updates the register.

(Note: currently this role is carried out by the Student Connections & Engagement Co-ordinator)

Working days
Working days means Monday to Friday

12. Reference Documents

a) Forms and related procedure:
i) Notice of Complaint form.
ii) Ākonga Student Complaint Investigation and Decision Report form (kaimahi – see the forms page on the kaimahi intranet).
iii) Ākonga Appeals Policy.
iv) Notice of Appeal.

b) Guidance:
i) Guidelines for resolving complaints informally.
ii) Formal complaints guidance for ākonga.
iii) Formal complaints guidance for kaimahi  (kaimahi – see the complaints process page on the kaimahi intranet).

13. Approval Details

Version number: 3

Issue Date: June 2018

Version History; See below

Approval authority: ELT

Date of Approval: 7 December 2022

Procedure Sponsor (Has authority to approve minor amendments): DCE - Learner Experience and Success Procedure

Owner: Director Student Success

Contact Person: Director Student Success

Date of Next Review: December 2025

14. Amendment History

Version: 3
Issue date: 1 January 2023.
Reason for revision: Review to align with new Te Pūkenga Policies and Te Kawa Maiorooro.
Approved by: Academic Committee.

Version: 2
Issue date: May 2022
Reason for revision: Periodic review:  sections 2(n) new step addition, 3 updated support and advocacy section – useful links, 4 improved guidelines for resolving complaints informally,  5 (c) link to medical Centre complaint Management Policy, 5(d), 6(b), 7(a), 8(a)(b)(c), 9(c), 12, 13 minor changes, 7(f) Reduction of days to resolve complaints, 10(a)(b) New Code of Practice for Tertiary and International Learners (removal of retired codes of practice link and information, 10(c) Tertiary Education Dispute Resolution link and information added.
Approved by: Executive Leadership Team.

Version: 1.7 
Issue date: November 2020
Reason for revision: Te Puna Waiora Medical Centre complaints process included sections 3(d) and 5(c). Added iStudent Complaints to section 9(c) to make DRS more prominent. Simplified & removed repetition to the ‘further information’ section 10.
Approved by: Te Tumu/Executive Director Student Success.

Version: 1.6
Issue date: March 2020
Reason for revision: Change of document in section 5 (b) to align with introduction of the Academic Complaints Procedure and the revised Student Appeals Procedure. Further Options under section 10(a) amended to include references to Unitec’s obligations under section 17(d) of the new Education (Pastoral Care of Domestic Tertiary Students) Interim Code of Practice 2019 & NZQA webpage link correction.
Approved by: Te Tumu/Executive Director Student Success.

Version: 1.5
Issue date: February 2020
Reason for revision: Sections 2(h), 3(a)(ii), 5, 5(a), 9, & 11 - aligning the Student Complaints Resolution Procedures with the revised Student Appeals Procedure and new Academic Complaint Procedure.
Approved by: Academic Board.

Version: 1.4
Issue date: November 2019
Reason for revision: Changes made to the following sections 5, 6(b), 7(f), 8(b), 9(b), 9 (d) to provide clarity.
Approved by: Academic Board.

Version: 1.3.1
Issue date: August 2019
Reason for revision: Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016 link correction to the latest reprint as at 1 July 2019.
Approved by: Director Student Success.

Version: 1.3
Issue date: March 2019
Reason for revision: Changes made to reflect recent changes at Unitec for sections 3(a)(ii), 3(b), 4, 4(a)(c)(d), 5(a), 6(a), 9(c), 11 and job title change in section 13.
Approved by: Te Tumu/Executive Director Student Success.

Version: 1.2 
Issue date: January 2019
Reason for revision: Changes made to reflect the new organisational structure for sections 3(a)(i), 4(b), 7(c), 11.
Approved by: Tumu Tauwhirowhiro Māori, Executive Director, Student Experience.

Version: 1.1
Issue date: August 2018
Reason for revision: Time limit in 6(d) to ensure prompt response. Mismatch between 7(f) and 8(b). Defined working days in 11. Job title of Document owner changed in 13 from GM Student Experience to Director Student Success.
Approved by: Tumu Tauwhirowhiro Māori, Executive Director, Student Experience.

Version: 1
Issue date: June 2018
Reason for revision: New procedure.
Approved by: Academic Board.