Gateways guidance: 9.5 Justifying a decision, appeals and complaints

On occasion, a medical school may be asked to justify rejecting a candidate on grounds relating to disability. The decision may be justified because the person does not meet the genuine competence standards, once reasonable adjustments have been considered, or because there is another material and substantial reason.

For example, a student might apply to study medicine full-time, but their condition requires that they regularly attend long hospital appointments two or three times a week. They would therefore miss large amounts of the course.

Things schools should do

  • Keep a record of the selection and interview processes.
  • Detail the reasons for any decisions, using university procedures and forms.
  • Ask the applicant:
    • to confirm that the information written down is correct
    • if they are happy for it to be passed on
    • to whom it could be passed on to and for what purpose
    • to sign the form accordingly.

Data protection

This information must be kept confidential under the Data Protection Act 1998. The principles of that Act are that personal information must be:

  • fairly and lawfully processed
  • processed for limited purposes
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate and up to date
  • not kept for longer than necessary
  • processed in line with the person’s rights
  • kept and processed securely
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.

At all stages, in relation to all applicants and students, it is good practice to have consistency in decision-making and bias-free written notes. If a complaint is made, the school has evidence to answer a charge of discrimination. It is the school’s responsibility to prove that it did not discriminate.

An accessible and clear process for dealing with complaints and appeals against a decision should be developed with copies made available to applicants and students in a range of accessible formats.

Web links: Bringing a case to court

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) operates an independent student complaints scheme, but does not cover admissions. The OIA may publish recommendations and organise seminars about how higher education institutions in England deal with complaints and what constitutes good practice. The OIA has taken a particular interest in disability issues.