Student complaints rocket, law students among most likely to complain

Student complaints are up by 25 per cent with those who specialise in law among the most likely to complain about their institution of study.

Last year was the seventh consecutive year that complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) increased. The number of complaints rose by a quarter in 2012 to 2,012 from 1,605 a year earlier.

Students most frequently complained about degree grading with 69 per cent of complaints revolving around this. Academic misconduct, plagiarism and cheating attracted 6 per cent of complaints, three per cent of complaints related to financial issues while a further three per cent were on discrimination and human rights.

Of the 2,012 complaints made, just 18 per cent, or 362, were upheld.

Law students were the third most likely to lodge a formal complaint, with only business and medicine students making more complaints.

Independent adjudicator Rob Behrens said: “Most complaints are about issues that a student believes have affected his or her academic progress or final results. These are important matters that can have a significant bearing on a student’s future.

“While most cases were found not justified there were still more than 300 cases in 2012 where there was evidence of inconsistency, error or behaviour that was not reasonable on the part of the university. Despite the excellent work of many people there is still more to be done.

“My annual report includes examples of misrepresentation of courses, lack of discussion with students before moving a course from a college in one town to a different venue, many miles away, and universities failing to follow their own regulations for dealing with appeals.”

The OIA has set out a series of measures, which from 2014, will aim to tackle the rise of formal complaints and resolve issues before the reach the OIA. Universities’ subscription rates will be partially based on the number of complains the OIA receives about institutions.

It is now working with the National Union of Students (NUS) to develop a framework for handling appeals.