Students outraged by lack of complaints procedures

October 15, 1999

Cambridge University is one of the only universities in Britain without formal procedures for hearing student complaints and appeals, the Cambridge students' union said this week.

Its president Tristan Jones said it was "disgusting" that Cambridge still did not have clear procedures in place, despite ministers' repeated calls for universities to establish "fair and robust" systems following the 1997 Dearing report.

Dearing gave institutions two years to review their procedures to ensure they "reflect the principles of natural justice", are transparent and timely, include procedures for reconciliation and arbitration and an independent, external element.

On the instruction of ministers, who are concerned that some universities are not taking the recommendation seriously, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals recently conducted a survey of the sector which found that all universities, except six which failed to respond, had procedures in place.

Mr Jones added: "We are one of the worst-represented student bodies in the sector." The students will campaign on the issue in the new independent student newspaper, The Cambridge Student.

Juliette Crispin, education officer for the students union, said the university had no procedure for complaining about exams, but students could complain to their tutor or director of studies about tuition, and could complain to faculties about lectures, although each faculty had its own system. She said the university had set up a working party to discuss the system.

Cambridge said that the university was waiting "like the rest of the sector" for more guidance. A code of practice on complaints is due next month.

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