Peculiar business

September 18, 1998

As the author of the 1996 Higher Education Quality Council report into student complaints procedures, I am confident that the overwhelming majority of institutions now have procedures for resolving issues of all kinds. I doubt very much whether any responsible institution has any intention of keeping "students in the dark about complaining" (THES, September 11).

It is unfair to say that institutions are "rushing" to devise new procedures in response to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals guidelines, which are concerned principally with independent review of appeals and complaints, ie that element of the process external to the institution. It is probably correct to say that the option that receives most support in the guidelines, that of compulsory arbitration, is not universally welcomed. There are serious objections to the use of yet another litigious procedure, and a head of steam building up for the adoption of more user-friendly alternatives.

What we really need to tackle is the notion that student problems are best resolved by a senior judge sitting in essentially the same role as The Visitor to the Royal Peculiar in the current case at Westminster Abbey.

While this formerly ecclesiastical position may have been suited to disciplining the young men attending medieval Oxbridge colleges, it is totally at odds with modern ways of doing business as enter the 21st century.

Dennis Farrington Dunblane, Perthshire

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