Cause for complaint

October 11, 2002

David Warner misses the root cause of why so many students complain to outside agencies (Soapbox, THES , October 4). It is because the internal mechanisms for resolving complaints involves the accused acting as judge and jury. If a thesis submission or final examination results in failure, is it the students' fault alone? Institutions sometimes let students down - by admitting them or by not recognising problems.

When cases come to the appeals board, they can appear as a mélange of old complaints and poor communication. Accusations of plagiarism in "final" submissions are common. Yet many students have never been trained in referencing. Institutions ignore the lessons that appeals cases teach. Records of hearings rarely go beyond the immediate board and senior personnel. This contrasts with external examiners' reports, which are recorded and shortcomings in quality addressed. Fair and open complaint systems are key to reducing disenchantment and failure. Institutions must support an independent student advocacy system.

Casting aside student appeals as evidence of their inability to accept personal failure is not good enough. The student may not be capable of achieving the level of learning required, but the question remains: "How did she or he get as far as the final exam before this fact was observed?"

Andrew J. Morgan
Swansea

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