Student complaints watchdog to name and shame two institutions

Two universities have failed to comply with decisions made by the student complaints watchdog, in the first such instances, a cross-party group of MPs has heard.

May 24, 2011

Rob Behrens, the independent adjudicator, told the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee today that he would be revealing “two instances of non-compliance” in his annual report, which is due to published on 14 June.

Currently, universities are named in the Office of the Independent Adjudicators’ annual report only if they fail to comply with decisions, but to date this has not happened.

“The way things are at the moment we have no coercive power and yet universities have complied almost always with the decisions which we’ve made since 2005,” he told the committee, which was hearing evidence as part of its inquiry into the future of higher education.

“The only sanction that we have at the moment is to publish the name of the university in our annual report if it fails to comply with one of our formal decisions. Until this year there has been no instance of that. There will be, in my report to be published on 14 June, two instances of non-compliance which I will be reporting.”

He also explained to MPs that from next year, following a sector-wide consultation, the OIA will publish the names of universities alongside summaries of its decisions on student complaints, a move that will bring it in line with the system in Scotland. The OIA presently anonymises institutions in its summaries.

Earlier, the committee heard evidence from independent higher education providers including the head of BPP University College, Carl Lygo, and Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham.

Professor Kealey told the hearing that quality-related research funding allocated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England should be opened up to independent providers.

“Our lives would be so much easier at Buckingham if you as a group were to advocate…[allowing independent institutions] access to QR money without having to subject itself to the regulatory framework of Hefce,” Professor Kealey said.

He also predicted that 20 years from now the quality of Britain’s higher education system, along with that of the US, would be far ahead of other countries thanks in large part to the “Buckinghamisation” of the sector.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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