Student helpline for legal advice

April 9, 1999

Students have set up a legal advice network in anticipation of an explosion of student complaints.

The Students Legal Advice Network - Slant - has been established by Don Staniford, a project officer for the National Postgraduate Committee and author of the influential 1998 NPC report, Complaints in Crisis.

Mr Staniford, involved in a long dispute over his PhD with the University of East Anglia, has already signed up leading education lawyers - Jaswinder Gill, Elaine Maxwell and Jack Rabinowicz - and is planning a fund-raising conference later this year.

He has support from Raws, the association of education, welfare and development staff in student unions, and hopes to engage the National Union of Students.

"The success of student complaints and appeals is dependent on the legal advice they are given," he said. "But there are so few expert lawyers in education who represent students. Most represent the universities."

He hopes the network will rival that used by universities, the University's Education Law Network, and redress the imbalance.

In a flyer Mr Staniford has distributed at legal conferences, he said:

"Slant seeks to tip the balance back in favour of students and provide a forum for the free flow of information and advice. The introduction of tuition fees, the increasing number of student complaints and the establishment of student contracts have all revealed the acute need for a network that can pool and ultimately save resources."

Slant will publish a regular newsletter, run an email list, and coordinate regional meetings and seminars. These will share worst and foster best practice.

Education secretary David Blunkett has ordered a review of university complaints procedures.


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