Adjudicator upholds 26% of student complaints

April 17, 2008

Taking a degree is now seen as "like passing a driving test", a report from the student complaints body said this week as it published figures showing a 25 per cent rise in complaints.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator, which takes on complaints after a university's internal complaints procedures have been exhausted, said that there had been an important shift in people's perception of the purposes of university education.

"Until recently, the university world was understood, by the public at large, and by its members, as competitive in admissions and in the level of graduation, with no absolute standards that guaranteed admission or graduation," says the annual report.

"University education was like qualifying for the Olympics, not like passing a driving test. It was taken to include striving to go further in the pursuit of knowledge than the previous generation, and was not confined to the mastery of basics. But there is now a strong perception that university education is a system of simple qualification."

The OIA said this change had many implications for those dealing with complaints.

The report shows that the number of complaints it has received against universities has risen for the third year in a row, and more complaints are being upheld.

Applications to the OIA, which does not handle complaints on matters of academic judgment, rose from 586 in 2006 to 734 in 2007, and 26 per cent of the 600 eligible complaints were upheld to some extent, up from 19 per cent the previous year.

The organisation recommended that a total of £173,000 in compensation be paid.

Thirty-six per cent of complaints were from postgraduate students, and 64 per cent of cases were from mature students aged over 25. Students in subjects allied to medicine were most likely to complain.

Outcome of student complaints

65% - Not justified
15% - Partly justified
11% - Justified
7% - Settled with full investigation
2% - Withdrawn

What students complain about

64% - Academic results
25% - Other
11% - Disciplinary matters/plagirism

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