Letter: Quicker remedies

April 20, 2001

It is hard to imagine that an education ombudsman working under the jurisdiction of university visitors will achieve the independence or impartiality required to comply with Article 6 of the Human Rights Act ("V-cs are reluctant to evict visitors", THES , April 6).

The inadequacy of the proposal is demonstrated by the intention of Universities UK to retain the inequitable distinctions between pre-1992 universities, which have visitors, and new universities, which do not. Students of the former have no access to the courts to resolve maladministration and malpractice complaints.

Timely intervention to rectify injustice is unlikely to feature in UUK's proposed system. By the time a student's complaint is addressed, the opportunity to obtain a remedy and resume studies will have long past.

An alternative would be the integration of an independent education ombudsman into the collegiate structure proposed by government for all the public sector ombudsmen, and as presented in the Review of the Public Sector Ombudsmen , Cabinet Office, April 2000. A primary objective of the modernisation is to ensure that the ombudsmen have the powers and the opportunity to intervene in cases of maladministration, rather than to investigate a case years after.

Neil McDougall
Corsham, Wiltshire

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