YOUNG VOICES

Student Complaints Against Universities Rise By 25%

13/06/2013 07:13 BST | Updated 13/06/2013 07:14 BST
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File photo dated 12/10/11 of a general view of students wearing mortar boards and gowns after graduating as university applications have yet to climb back to the levels seen before the tuition fee hike, new data shows.

Student complaints against universities rose by a quarter in 2012 amid the rise in tuition fees, according to a report by a higher education watchdog.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) received a record 2,012 complaints about institutions in England and Wales last year, up from 1,605 the previous year.

The rise, which comes in the year that fees were tripled to a maximum of £9,000, is expected to continue as students feel the effect of the hike, the OIA warned.

"This is another record year, representing a 25% increase on complaints received in 2011," the adjudicator said in its annual report.

"The upward trend shows no sign of slowing down and the expectation is that complaint numbers will continue to rise as the impact of increased fees is felt."

OIA chief executive Rob Behrens said: "We haven't seen the full impact of the fee increase yet, because most complaints are from third year students and the fees do not apply to them yet.

"What I think has happened is the debate about the fees has been in the public domain.

"The government is encouraging students to behave like consumers and I think that has had an impact."

He added: "Changes of the order we have seen in the last couple of years mean complaints will continue to rise and probably will accelerate."

In total, student complaints have increased for the seventh year in a row, the OIA said.

Most complaints were over issues that students believed had affected their academic progress or final results.

"These are important matters that can have a significant bearing on a student's future," Mr Behrens said.

The grievances cover everything from issues over a student's academic status to discrimination, disciplinary matters and misconduct, such as plagiarism.

The majority (69%) related to academic status, the adjudicator said, which "reflects the importance to students of achieving a first class or upper second class honours degree, or postgraduate qualification".

The OIA received the most complaints about business and administrative studies courses, followed by subjects allied to medicine.

"Students whose courses lead directly or comprise a step towards a professional qualification remain the most likely to complain," the report said.

Of the complaints dealt with by the OIA last year, more than half (59%) were found to be "not justified".

Around 8% were partly justified, 4% were justified, 6% were settled and the others were not eligible, suspended or withdrawn.

It added that in cases where the complaint was justified or partly justified, the OIA made recommendations on steps the university should take, or the compensation that should be paid.

The OIA recommended that universities pay a total of £189,892 in compensation to students last year, the report said.

It also named London South Bank University for failing to comply with its recommendations.

It is the third time that the adjudicator has taken this step.

"We go through quite a rigorous process of alerting universities to what they have to do to avoid being named for non-compliance," Mr Behrens said.

"London South Bank University was not able to convince us that they had done sufficient to avoid being named."