Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre

“A Centre of Excellence for continuing professional development (CPD), research and knowledge exchange in dispute resolution, complaint management and consumer policy and a leading provider of ombudsman and complaint handling courses.”

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre (CDRC) is a centre of excellence in consumer dispute resolution and consumer policy. The Centre provides continuing professional development (CPD), research, and consultancy services to business, government, and third sector organisations in the UK and across the world.

The Centre’s particular expertise concerns dispute resolution between individuals and large organisations, for example, between consumers and businesses and between citizens and the government. Our unique focus is on understanding consumer perspectives on dispute resolution and developing the idea that users should be at the heart of dispute resolution systems and processes.  You may wish to download our brief guide on Improving Your Complaints Process for Complainants and For You.

The Centre also has broader interests in relation to consumer policy, and issues such as regulation, consumer advice, and enforcement.

CPD Short Courses

Professional training is important to us and as experts in the fields of dispute resolution, complaint management and complaint handling, we are able to offer a range of accredited courses that cover such topics as investigations, root-cause analysis, the value of apology, dealing with difficult behaviour, decision making and effective communication.  These courses are aimed at individuals who may be new to complaint handling through to individuals in more senior roles looking to develop their leadership and management skills.


A two day university accredited course for professional complaint handling staff developed in close consultation with practitioners.  The course will be of interest to those working in local government, health and social care, central government and non-departmental public bodies.  Organisations wishing to improve their complaint handling processes and individuals seeking professional accreditation will be particularly interested in this short course.

The course draws on the latest insights from theory, research and practice and covers all the key aspects of complaint management.  The three broad themes covered are:

  1. the early resolution of complaints
  2. the conduct of robust investigations
  3. the application of effective remedies

General course details can be found in our course flyer and more in-depth information can be found on our information PDF

The next courses will be running on:

  • 9th & 10th April 2019 in London
  • July 2019 (dates to be advised) in Manchester


Early bird fee of £750 available until 31st January 2019 for April course and 30th April 2019 for July course. Regular fee is £800.

For a booking form and/or more information please contact 



A two day university accredited course aimed primarily at those working in the assessment and investigative functions of ombudsman and other second-tier complaint handling organisations.  The purpose of the course is to equip assessors and investigators with the practical skills and background knowledge necessary by taking participants through the journey of a complaint, from receipt to decision.  The emphasis in on practice and a case-study based approach will be used to reflect the nature of ombudsmen and complaint handling work.  This course is suited to staff who may be new to complaint handling or those who are looking for a more informed approach and greater understanding of complaint procedures

As part of the training is online and interactive, ideally you should be able to bring with you to the course either a laptop, tablet or smart phone to enable you to use the wifi and connect to QMU's Hub site (our virtual learning platform). If this is problematic for you, please let us know at the time of booking.

Our next course will be running on the 20th & 21st February 2019 in London


Early bird fee of £750 available until 14th December 2018.  Regular fee is £800.

For more information about the course can and a booking form, please contact 



A three day university accredited course designed to provide theory, discussion and the application of practice relating to a number of subject areas relevant to the work of ombudsmen and other second-tier organisations.  As such it may be of interest to more experienced complaint handlers.  Subject areas covered include:

Day 1:  Appropriate dispute resolution: theory and practice

Day 2: The principles of effective remedy

Day 3: Rights and equality for ombudsmen and complaint handlers 

The next course will be running on the 20th, 21st and 22nd November 2018 in Reading (just outside London).


Early bird fee of £1100 available until 30th September 2018.  Regular fee is £1200 (we do offer a special fee of £975 for former students who have previously taken either the Professional Award or Public Services Complaint Management Award).

For more information about the course and a booking form, please contact  



In partnership with The Resolution Centre and the Institute of Law Jersey, we are pleased to offer an accredited certificate in mediation skills.

This alternative dispute resolution (ADR) course will equip and accredit individuals with the skills and techniques to effectively resolve complaints and disputes, whether in a mediation itself, or using mediation skills.

The course programme has been specifically designed to deliver tangible benefits through mediation, including consumer disputes, disputed contracts, construction disputes, partnership disputes, conflict in the workplace, corporate conflict and disputes at senior levels.

Delegates who undertake and pass an additional 2 days training and assessment (which includes focus on mediation at a strategic level) will gain a ‘Certificate in Mediation Skills’ (CIMS), enabling them to engage in mediation and mediative techniques at all levels, an academic credit bearing qualification from QMU Edinburgh and the Institute of Law Jersey, and eligibility (subject to their terms) for full membership of the CIArb.

This course runs in Jersey, Channel Islands. For further information, please visit The Resolution Centre's website here.



In addition to the complaint handling/management short courses detailed above, we also offer individuals the opportunity to undertake single 20 credit point dispute resolution modules (masters level) as cpd.  Learners can complete one, two or more modules at a pace that suits the individual and there is the opportunity to progress to the Postgraduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution. Our next intake is September 2019.  The fee per module is £688.  The following dispute resolution modules are available (please note:  there is a minimum number of students required on a module to ensure a good student experience):

September 2019:

January 2020:


Click on the above module titles to find out more about these modules, or go to the Continued Professional Development tab on this page and scroll down to the relevant section.

The following quotes are from some of our current students:

"Learning that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.  That conflict can lead to social change, innovative ideas and personal growth.  I feel that I am building on my skill set and this will undoubtedly benefit my organisation, increase my employability and future opportunities for progression.  What I am learning applies to everyday situations, there will always be conflict and disputes, but knowing what to do is empowering."

"The benefits for me are a better understanding of my job and a new mindset that I apply to everyday living and finally an awareness of other opportunities open to me career wise."

"I definitely feel more empowered and confident when confronted with conflict in both my personal and professional life.  I am learning about being assertive in my communication and identifying and incorporating models of practice into my work on a day to day basis."

 Please contact  if you have any questions about these modules or would like to arrange a discussion with one of the academic tutors.

Research and Consultancy Services

Research services

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre’s research services provide clients with unrivalled expertise in the areas of consumer dispute resolution and consumer policy. A distinctive feature of our approach is the Centre’s mix of practitioner and academic staff, which allows us to provide clients with the latest insights from both research and practice. The Centre has a strong track record of delivering policy focused research for clients, which combines academic rigor with a practical focus. Download our Consultancy and Research Services brochure.

View our latest report, examining the best approaches to ensure effective consumer representation in the governance of financial services released today (Friday 20 October 2017). View today's report and the executive summary.

Case studies

Citizens Advice – Comparative Performance Analysis of ADR in Selected Markets
The Centre (in partnership with the University of Westminster) was commissioned by Citizens Advice to conduct research into the performance of ADR schemes. This involved a mapping study of existing ADR providers and evaluation of their performance against a range of criteria. The research also involved conducting interviews with consumers to find out about their experiences of complaining. Read the full report.

Ombudsman Services – Defining Consumer Ombuds Schemes
The Centre was commissioned by Ombudsman Services to conduct research to identify the defining characteristics of modern consumer ombuds schemes. The research involved a desk-based study and interviews with experts in the field. The research report provides important clarity on the roles, functions, and processes of consumer ombuds schemes. Read the full report.

Legal Ombudsman – Models of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Centre was commissioned by the Legal Ombudsman to research best practice in alternative dispute resolution. The research involved selecting 10 case study organisations
across the world and identifying a range of different approaches to effective dispute resolution. The research was particularly concerned with how to design a good ADR scheme and provided a model and toolkit for ADR design. Read the full report.

Legal Ombudsman – The Future of Ombuds Schemes
The Legal Ombudsman commissioned the Centre to survey the current policy landscape for ombuds schemes in the UK. This involved policy analysis of the strategic drivers which were likely to affect UK ombuds schemes now and in the future. The research used qualitative interviews with senior practitioners to understand how schemes were adapting to change. The research provided a model for the future development of ombuds schemes and a number of recommendations for policy. Read the full report.

NESTA – Gripes, Grumbles, and Grievances
The Centre (in partnership with Stirling University) was commissioned by the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA) to look at the way in which complaints could be used to drive innovation in public services. The research collected examples of good practice and used these to identify the key factors which facilitate innovation in pubic services. The report provided a range of policy recommendations and is a key resource for those interested in learning from complaints. Read the full report.

Care Inspectorate – The Outcome of Complaints
The Centre was commissioned by the Care Inspectorate to investigate how people who had complained to them about a care service felt about the outcome of their complaints. The particular focus of the research was on whether complainants felt that complaining had been worth their while and whether they felt that anything had changed as a result of their complaint. The research involved qualitative interviews with complainants. The research provides important data about the way in which complainants experience complaint processes and the need to feedback on the outcome of investigations. Read the full report.

Please contact the Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre’s Director, Carol Brennan, to discuss how we can help you with your organisation’s research needs:

Consultancy services

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre offers a full range of consultancy services, cutting across dispute resolution and consumer policy. Particular areas of expertise include organisational reviews, evaluations of complaint and dispute processes, consumer engagement, consumer regulation and enforcement, and consumer-focused service improvement. The Centre’s staff combine perspectives from law, public management, consumer policy, and communications to provide a holistic service to clients. To find out more about our areas of expertise, please click on the staff profiles below.

Case studies

Utilities Disputes Ltd (New Zealand)
We have been commissioned to conduct the Five Year Independent Review of Utilities Disputes Ltd. This involves a review of the organisation’s effectiveness against the key criteria for industry based alternative dispute resolution schemes. The methodology includes desk based research and fieldwork. This consultancy recognizes the Centre’s international expertise in consumer dispute resolution and organisational reviews. The report of the review will be published in due course on Utilities Disputes Ltd’s website.

Ombudsman Services
The Centre was appointed to act as Ombudsman Services’ Interim Independent Assessor. This involved dealing with complaints from dissatisfied users who had exhausted the internal complaints process of the organisation. 88 complaints were reviewed during the period of appointment, with a written adjudication provided in each case. An annual review featuring recommendations to the organisation was prepared and published in the organization’s Annual Report.

Welsh Language Commissioner
We were commissioned to conduct a review of the Welsh Language Commissioner’s complaints process. This involved carrying out a series of interviews with key members of staff within the organisation; reviewing the organization’s complaints procedures, guidance and founding legislative instruments; observing staff handling complaints; and reviewing a sample of case files. The review made a number of recommendations. The review also conducted a comparative analysis of approaches to collecting customer feedback used by independent complaint handling organisations.

Audit Scotland
We were commissioned to conduct an evaluation of Audit Scotland’s correspondence process. This process involved receipt of correspondence from members of the public in relation to the performance of public bodies. The process was evaluated with reference to best practice established in the Ombudsman Association’s Guide to Principles of Good Complaint Handling. The evaluation included examination of a sample of cases and interviews with key stakeholders in the organisation. The project resulted in a number of recommendations being made to the client and a significantly improved process for dealing with customers’ complaints and concerns.

Please contact the Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre’s Director, Carol Brennan, to discuss how we can help you with your organisation’s consultancy needs:

Postgraduate Study

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre (CDRC) offers opportunities for postgraduate study for:

  • Dispute Resolution (start dates in both January and September) - we have designed a flexible framework of dispute resolution modules which will be attractive to those in complaint handling, ombudsman, mediation and negotiation roles and welcome applications for individual modules as part of our range of continuing professional development (CPD) courses,
  • Master's by Research (MRes) and
  • PhD degrees.

Members of the CDRC team are experts in consumer/citizen dispute resolution and combine both professional expertise and academic insight. They are active researchers and their teaching draws on the latest developments in dispute resolution research, policy and practice.

The team offers supervision of postgraduate study and we welcome enquiries and applications relating to consumer behaviour in disputes, dispute system design, complaint management, mediation, administrative justice, consumer policy, effective communication, ombudsman schemes, access to justice, consumer complaints and negotiation.

Consistent with the applied focus of research conducted within CDRC, we especially welcome applications for research that involves collaboration with practitioners, policy-makers and other research users.

Initial enquiries can be made to the Director, Carol Brennan, or to individual members of the Centre who are engaged in the relevant area of research.