Cause for complaint

March 17, 2000

Now that the central plank of the complaints code has been removed ("University reforms loom", THES, March 10), the Quality Assurance Agency's role in upholding student complaints looks very shaky. The absence of the "independent, external element" (Section D) leaves the code without foundation and students without a safety net. Despite attempts to shore up its legal defences, the QAA has been embarrassingly stonewalled into submission by the university sector.

Unless the Department for Education and Employment intervenes to save the code, students will have nothing to rely on except the expensive DIY approach to complaints. That it knew over a year ago its code was unenforceable and did nothing but delay more meetings serves only to reinforce the impression that the QAA is little more than a talking shop.

For students, the future does not augur well, with over 100 institutions ignoring the complaints consultation. If universities are left to put their own houses in order, students' rights will go up in smoke. Especially galling will be the inevitable attempts to rebrand the visitor as a paragon of equality and human rights. Like the emperor's new clothes, it should be quite a sight.

Don Staniford Member, QAA Working Group on Student Complaints and Appeals

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