New technology could help higher education institutions avoid acrimonious student complaints by enabling them to monitor how quickly the complaint is being dealt with.
Dennis Farrington, editor of the Universities and Colleges Education Law Network bulletin, writing in the latest issue, warns that complaints often "escalate" because an institution fails to respond in an agreed timescale.
Tailormade software allows senior management to investigate types of complaint and subject area much more quickly than a search through files, says Dr Farrington. It can also alert the institution to issues which are taking longer to resolve than anticipated.
Around half of higher education institutions are now members of Ucelnet, which was launched a year ago as a forum on higher education law.
"A lot of public money can be wasted on useless litigation," said Dr Farrington, deputy secretary of Stirling University. "All institutions should work together to produce fair and comprehensible procedures for students so that the possibility of litigation is very severely reduced, and the object of this network is to try to help institutions to do that without having to spend vast amounts of money on independent advice."
In his Ucelnet article, he urges institutions to have monitoring procedures to ensure that students who make complaints do not suffer discrimination. But he also says that while complaints procedures should not deter students from raising legitimate concerns, they should allow action to be taken against the complainant if the complaint is shown to be frivolous or malicious.