An education and training provider referred to below could be a VRQA registered training organisation (RTO), independent school, non-school senior secondary provider or overseas student exchange organisations (OSSEO).
What is a complaint?
‘An expression of dissatisfaction made to or about an organisation, related to its products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint, where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.’
Source: Australian Standard AS/NZS 10002:2014.
What steps should you consider when making a complaint about an education and training provider?
The first step: you must make a written complaint directly to the education and training provider, clearly outlining your concerns. Each education and training provider must have a complaints policy and procedures outlining their process for managing complaints. By following this first step you assure the VRQA that the provider has been given the opportunity to respond.
The next step: if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint made to the education and training provider, you can make a complaint to the VRQA.
What happens after a complaint is lodged with the VRQA?
First, the VRQA has to check it has the authority to investigate the complaint and will review the provider’s registration and the type of concerns raised.
It is important that you provide accurate details in your complaint, including:
- the full name of the provider
- clear information about your concerns. It is a good idea to provide dates of events and details of any action taken to address or respond to your complaint, as well as any documents or evidence to support your complaint.
Please note: you will be asked to give your permission for the VRQA to share your complaint with the provider. If you do not give your permission, you could limit our ability to investigate your specific concerns.
What happens if the VRQA does not have the authority to investigate a complaint?
The provider’s registration and/or the specific concerns in a complaint will determine if the VRQA has the authority to investigate your complaint.
If the VRQA is unable to investigate your complaint, we will make every effort to direct you to the right place. For example, if your compliant is about disputes over fees, refunds or contractual obligations, we will direct you to
Consumer Affairs Victoria.
What is involved in a VRQA investigation?
Our investigations are compliance investigations. We consider the allegations in the complaint for a potential breach of the minimum standards for registration. An education and training provider must develop and implement policies and procedures that meet the minimum standards.
The investigation will consider:
- whether the provider has the relevant policies, procedures and systems to meet the minimum standards
- how the provider followed their policies, procedures and systems in responding to the complaint.
The VRQA will ensure that a provider takes action to rectify any breaches of the standards so they comply with all minimum standards.
How does the VRQA undertake an investigation?
An investigation may involve a number of steps such as:
- a review of policies and procedures
- a review of documentation relevant to the complaint issues
- a site visit to the provider
- contact with the provider to clarify information and discuss the complaint.
Will the material I submit to the VRQA be handled confidentially?
Yes. The VRQA will take all reasonable measures to protect the confidentiality of documents that are part of a complaint investigation.
How long will an investigation take?
We aim to complete an investigation within 45 business days. However, it may take longer when dealing with more complex complaints or if there are multiple issues/allegations. Sometimes holidays or provider closures can affect the timeframe for completing an investigation.
What can a complainant expect from a VRQA investigation?
You can expect us to focus on the provider’s compliance with the relevant standards. We investigate and decide whether there has been a breach of the standards and if the provider needs to take any rectification action. We do not provide a mediation or conciliatory process where people are supported to reach a resolution together.
What happens if the investigation confirms a breach of the relevant standards?
If we find that the provider’s approach does not meet the relevant standards (e.g. a policy does not have sufficient content), the provider will be required to review their approach and submit revised policies and procedures to the VRQA to ensure that they meet the relevant standards.
An investigation may also lead to a VRQA review or audit of the education and training provider outside the normal five-year review cycle.
What happens at the end of the investigation?
At the end of an investigation, the VRQA will write to the complainant and the provider to advise them of the outcome of the investigation. The letter will outline any rectification actions required by the organisation to ensure compliance with the relevant standard/s.
Will the VRQA stay in communication with the provider until rectification actions are completed?
Yes. The VRQA will set a timeframe and the provider will be required to show evidence that they have taken action and meet the relevant standard/s.
What is expected of an education and training provider as a result of the VRQA’s investigation process?
The VRQA expects providers to take complaints seriously and view complaints as part of their continuous improvement processes. Often some time has passed between the original issue/s that gave rise to a complaint and the VRQA receiving it. We encourage the provider to reflect on how they managed the issues and the complaint. We believe that providers can learn from complaints and take actions to strengthen their approach to meet the minimum standard for registration.