Whistleblowers: Student seeks full fee refund from Glasgow

July 11, 2003

A postgraduate student who is dissatisfied with the level of service he received on his Glasgow University course is seeking a full refund of his £3,000 fees.

Mature student Allan Strang enrolled on a diploma/MSc course in adult and continuing education at Glasgow in October 2001. In December that year, he gave a class presentation for a key assignment.

Despite concerns that there had been only limited preparation time because of a timetabling problem, Mr Strang thought that his presentation, "The origins of the Open University degree", had gone well.

The feedback from his tutor, a full page of A4 paper, bore this out - until he reached the concluding section of the report, which read: "This was an ambitious analysis of the issues surrounding lifelong learning in the context of German higher education. Well done and thank you for giving us a session that made some good use of your own experience."

Mr Strang was given a mark of 58 - a C+ grade.

After encountering further, more minor, problems with the level of service he was receiving, Mr Strang made a formal complaint in June last year. In August, he received a response from vice-principal Andrew Nash. Professor Nash said that there had been a "glitch" with the feedback on the presentation and claimed that just one sentence in the tutor's report - that referring to a presentation on German education - was wrong. He said the problem "should be set in the context of the otherwise pertinent, constructive and extensive comments".

But in a statement this week, a university spokeswoman confirmed: "Mr Strang was supplied with the wrong written report. The university investigated, acknowledged this mistake and formally expressed its regret through the clerk of senate. It was perhaps unfortunate to describe this as a 'glitch'."

She said that there had been an administrative error as two students gave presentations on the same day - one on German education, and Mr Strang's on the Open University.

"The University of Glasgow treats all student complaints very seriously.

Beginning in May 2002, Allan Strang had written a number of letters of complaint directly to the university's principal. Professor Nash therefore carried out a preliminary investigation in his capacity as clerk of senate, however Mr Strang was not satisfied with the outcome."

She added: "It was therefore agreed that the complaint be handled through the formality of the student complaint procedure, and the complaint was referred to Robert Rennie, senior senate assessor for student complaints.

After an investigation, Professor Rennie prepared a report for the clerk of senate and Mr Strang was supplied with a copy (in February 2003). In brief, the report concluded that: the quality of teaching and support provided by the department was not so deficient as to justify a refund of fees; for a variety of reasons Mr Strang had been unable to complete the qualification he sought, and the department was very willing to discuss ways in which he might continue his studies; on a number of occasions Mr Strang's academic grade was brought down by penalties for late submission, though the department had strongly advised him to convert to part-time study. The university found that there was no case to answer."

Mr Strang insisted that he was entitled to a refund and said he was considering legal action against the university.

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