Little substance behind Scots’ complaints

Dozens of complaints were lodged against universities with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman last year but few were upheld, a new report reveals.

September 29, 2010

The ombudsman received 56 complaints about universities in 2009-10, according to the body’s annual report, but just four of these were judged to be sufficiently well grounded to be laid before the Scottish Parliament for consideration.

The complaints that went before Parliament were against the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University, Queen Margaret University and the University of Strathclyde. All four were partly upheld because of failures in the way they were handled by the institutions involved.

However, none of the original complaints – which included an allegation of bullying and a grievance from a PhD student who was accused of research misconduct by his supervisor – was upheld in full.

“Although we received only two complaints that were specifically about complaints handling, this often features as an issue within a complaint,” says the annual report from the ombudsman.

The report, published today, suggests that Scottish universities review their complaints procedures.

Institutions should also reconsider their record-keeping processes, implement formal policies for managing unacceptable behaviour and apologise when complaints are handled poorly, it recommends.

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