Letter: UUK fails the test

August 17, 2001

The publication of Universities UK's proposals for the independent review of student complaints ("Student fears at 'fudged' review", THES , August 10) presents a rare opportunity for students to turn the tables on universities and to examine the logic and consistency of the answers UUK has given to the important question of how complaints on academic policy and practice should be concluded in the 21st century.

Clearly, UUK understood the question by correctly establishing that reform is required in the pursuit of natural justice to implement the recommendations of the Nolan and Dearing reports and, most importantly, to conform to the requirements of the Human Rights Act. Unfortunately, by arguing that a compromise solution could be adopted at the discretion of individual universities, it has failed an exam designed to test its knowledge of the universal applicability of natural justice and the Human Rights Act. The principles of natural justice and the articles of the act cannot be applied on a discretionary basis.

Also, the candidate failed to identify any knowledge of the recent Cabinet Office review of the public sector ombudsman and failed to consider how contemporary thinking about the workings of ombudsmen could be applied in our sector.

As a consequence of these failings and misunderstandings, the candidate must resit this examination in the autumn, and show a more complete understanding of this important subject.

Neil McDougall
Reading, Berkshire

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