How Do You Respond To A Student Complaint?


As an educational provider, it is very obvious to receive complaints from students from time to time. These complaints can range from verbal comments to written ones and may escalate quickly unless you know how to deal with them effectively. The nature of the complaint can vary. It can be about a faculty, a staff, or other students in the college. So, the institution needs to have proper guidelines on how do you respond to a student complaint.

When confronted with a student who is not satisfied with a particular situation, a teacher needs to treat him/her with respect and sympathy. No matter what reasons they provide, it is very much important for instructors to attempt a businesslike, unbiased, and compassionate response without compromising the institution’s policies. Below are some steps that can be taken from the instructor’s side that How do you respond to a Student Complaint?

How Do You Respond To A Student Complaint?

Finding details about the complaint

So, the first step is to find out what exactly the complaint is about, what could it be and when has it been filed. If this information is with you, they will be in a better place to assess the situation. Who told you about the complaint? Was it received through a grapevine or did you receive the complaint directly in a formal way? Get all this information first.

You should be informed who is complaining about you

Though it doesn’t happen quite often, you should be informed who has complained about you. Just in case the complaint has not been officially filed yet and if you have not received a copy of the same, try to reflect upon what you believe is catalyzing the complaint and what should be your relevant actions to mitigate the situation.

Be prepared

It is a good thing to review the institution’s complaint policies every three years at a minimum. If there is a need to make some changes, it should be done as soon as possible. Generally, complaints can also be taken positively as they allow you to improve yourself which will benefit the rest of the students. It is also needed to clearly explain the complaint and appeal procedures to the students. This can be done through student forums, websites, or handbooks.

Listen to the complaint carefully

The student will want you to listen to his/her problem or issue. As an instructor, you are required to give them a platform to speak out comfortably. Don’t be angry, ask irrelevant questions, or instruct the student to take any action. You should value them as they have come to you in the first place. Let them explain things in their way and do not interrupt in the middle. Reassure them that the discussions between you and them would be highly confidential.

Driving out the fear

Many students do not want to disclose something or make a complaint because they believe that no one is going to believe them. So, the students’ services must ensure that the students are believed. You can try to remove their psychological barrier by making them believe that whatever they say will be taken seriously.

Signposting the students

As an instructor, you are required to direct the student to support or safe places to talk. The appropriate agency needs to be identified in what is going to happen next. You are required to respect their decision. It may not be what you expected or what you think you would do.

Don’t talk about the complaint with anyone else

You must not talk about the complaint with anyone else – be it a student or any other fellow instructor. Do not try to ask the students to recollect the incidents of the incident because your incidents might be viewed by them in a different way than you expect. So, the point is that don’t muddy the water. You might be tempted to do something but you need to resist yourself before you understand the process you are in. You are not the one entitled to collect witnesses or memories. If this is necessary then it will be done by the college management.

A student complaint email example:


Dear Professor Sarkar,

I am very much disappointed to know you gave me an F on the midterm exam. I have completed all the work for the first half of the class and this is unfair that just because I had an awful day when I took the proctored midterm, those grades were not counted at all. I think that this is unfair as the exam was really hard and I tried my best from my side.

Jasmine Burner


How Do You Respond to a Student Complaint?

Sample Response to the complaint

Dear Jasmine,

First of all thanks a lot for sharing your concerns about the midterm exam. I can see that your 19% grade is below the minimum score required to pass the class. So, I checked your exam responses, and I came to know that you had understood a lot of key concepts that were covered in the first half of the class. I agree that you must be feeling frustrated about getting such a result though you felt prepared for the exam.

I am sorry to inform you that the course policies are very firm as mentioned in my syllabus. You are supposed to score at least 60% on both the midterm and the final to pass. I can also see that you were not able to complete the assigned practice midterm. It seems that you had opened it and spent about 15 minutes on only the first 10 of 50 questions.

I see that you have only 6 days left in the withdrawal period for this term. I would rather suggest you get this matter discussed with an advisor. Let me also tell you that the registration for the next term is opened and the class is being provided in flexible timings and formats. I suggest you take an on-campus section for the next term rather than going for the online version of this course. I would also be very happy to meet you.

Swastik Sarkar




As an instructor, it is your duty for contributing to the overall development of students capable of independent and critical thinking. You are also responsible for referring your students to the services of the campus that can assist them in balancing all pressures of studying at a postsecondary institution. Beyond this, you are not at all formally accountable for the rest of the students’ lives. How do you respond to a Student Complaint? It does not matter what the complaint or excuse is, you need to have an established framework of proper communication when it comes to responding to student grades or any complaints against an instructor or staff. This will help you maintain fairness, consistency, and objectiveness for the long-term improvement of the students.