The Quality Assurance Agency's retreat from the Dearing recommendation that students should have access to an "independent" and "external" system to review complaints and appeals is not justified by the legal advice the agency has received.
Those pursuing complaints about the actions of central government departments, health authorities and local government bodies can obtain an independent and external review of complaints through the appropriate ombudsman. These have operated successfully over 30 years without binding decision-making powers. It should be possible to introduce a higher education ombudsman without challenging the legal framework within which the pre-1992 and the new universities operate.
The QAA could be exploring the opportunities available to apply this approach in the university sector.
Neil McDougall Corsham, Wiltshire