Through the Complaints Policy (RC/10.1) EQAR offers anyone a way to raise concerns related to a registered agency’s substantial compliance with the ESG or the integrity of the external review process on the basis of which EQAR admitted an agency to the Register.
The Complaints Policy was initially established in 2011 and revised in July 204 and January 2015. With the latter revision the possibility of anonymous complaints was introduced.
The policy sets out clearly that EQAR does not have a mandate to review individual processes or decisions of registered agencies concerning a particular higher education institution or programme, to construe national legislation, European Union law, or any other applicable rules:
A complaint will only be considered as an official complaint in the sense of §7.2 of the EQAR Procedures for Applications if it is credible, substantiated and supported by appropriate evidence, references, examples etc.
EQAR will only consider complaints that are related to:
- a registered agency’s substantial compliance with the ESG, or
- the integrity of the external review process on the basis of which EQAR admitted an agency to the Register.
EQAR does not have a mandate to:
- review individual processes or decisions of registered agencies concerning a particular higher education institution or programme;
- construe national legislation, European Union law, or any other applicable rules. Concerns as regards compliance with such rules should be addressed to the competent courts or authorities.
Complaints need to be made in writing, preferably using a web form made available on the EQAR website. The form also allows complaints to be made anonymously. According to the Complaints Policy, they should mention at least:
- The name of the agency concerned.
- The complainant's concerns with regard to the agency's compliance with the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) or the integrity of the external review process.
Whenever possible, complainants should refer to specific standards or guidelines of the ESG, or to specific articles of EQAR’s Procedures for Application.
- Evidence supporting the concerns (any documents should be attached in plain text or PDF format).
- A statement whether the issue has been taken up with the agency concerned; if so, with what result; if not, for what reason.
- Information on any current or past relationship the complainant has/had with the agency concerned.
The following process is followed to handle Complaints:
The EQAR Secretariat verifies whether the complaint is in line with the Complaints Policy. If the complaint:
- is formally admissible, continue to step 2;
- is bogus, it will be discarded; the agency will be informed of the fact that a complaint was received and discarded;
- is incomplete, the Secretariat asks the complainant to resolve the issue, if feasible (e.g. ask for evidence, clarify relationship with the agency, etc.);
- is/remains not in line with the Policy, it will be discarded and the agency will be informed.
The Secretariat appoints two Register Committee members as rapporteurs for the complaint. Rapporteurs analyse whether there is evidence that the agency violated the requirements of the ESG in the specific case and whether the specific case is prima facie evidence for a systemic problem in terms of ESG compliance.
The agency concerned is informed of the complaint and invited to comment; if necessary, clarification or information is requested from the agency.
Based on a recommendation by the rapporteurs, the Register Committee decides to either:
- reject the complaint, if it is not substantiated;
- issue a formal warning, if the complaint is substantiated but relates to an isolated case and does not substantially affect the agency's compliance with the ESG;
- reduce the remaining registration period (§7.4 c of the Procedures), if the complaint is substantiated and leads to serious concerns about the agency’s substantial compliance with the ESG, while it is impossible to make a final judgement without a new external review of the agency;
- exclude the agency (§7.4 b), if the complaint is substantiated and the agency is evidently no longer in substantial compliance with the ESG.
In cases 4 (iii) and (iv), according to §7.5 of the Procedures the agency is invited to make representation before a final decision is made.
The final decision is communicated to the agency, the complainant and published.
- In case 4 (i) the published decision will not identify the agency.
- In cases 4 (ii), (iii) and (iv) the agency has the right to appeal.
There are no specific internal forms or templates for complaints.