Legal appeals not the answer for students

October 31, 2013

Daniel Sokol makes a number of useful observations on university appeals (“Students have a right to redress, so give them a fair hearing”, Opinion, 24 October). Like Sokol and others before him, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator sees all too many cases where universities stray from their processes or fail to make fair and reasonable decisions. We also have our share of heart-sinking cases where it becomes clear during the course of our review that the student’s pursuit of the complaint is at best misguided.

I doubt, however, that greater reliance on legal representation is the answer. Appeals and complaints procedures should be accessible and intelligible to students and university staff alike. The OIA is working with others, including the National Union of Students and the Academic Registrars Council, to develop a good practice framework to guide more effective, consistent and rapid resolution of complaints and appeals. If all university appeal panels need at least one legally trained member, then something has gone wrong.

Rob Behrens
Independent adjudicator and chief executive
Office of the Independent Adjudicator

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Reader's comments (1)

The point is something has gone wrong and students are having experiences that are damaging to their wellbeing, what is needed is a process guardian. Perhaps like the ACAS interventions once the student has reached stage two (for example) someone from OIA could become a point of reference for both parties?

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