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University Complaints reach all time high

Earlier this week, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (“OIA”) announced in their annual report that complaints they had received from students in England and Wales about their university courses had reached an all-time high, with over a third of the complaints received relating to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on courses. As University lawyers, we took special interest in this report.

The OIA is an independent third party who handles complaints that students make about their universities. If you have completed the University’s internal complaints procedure and you’re not happy with the outcome, then the next step would be to make a complaint with the OIA.

In their annual report the OIA explained that these complaints have been based on a variety of different issues, with some complaints about being unable to access in-person facilities like laboratories, while others were unable to pursue their studies abroad. An increased focus on remote learning was also considered an issue and many complained about staffing issues, including poorly prepared substitute teachers and key experts in their field leaving the university. An official from the National Union of Students (“NUS”) has said that the complaints were “no surprise” and that students were at “their breaking point”.

Complaints in the report that were considered "justified", at least in part, include:

  • A group of masters students who were refunded half their tuition fees after they complained about their practical arts programme and how it had been advertised
  • A student who was seriously injured while at university and not given information about the Disabled Students' Allowance
  • Medical students who were studying at an overseas campus where the facilities were not properly finished in time for their arrival

Alongside a record number of complaints, the overall total compensation ordered by the OIA reached £1.3 million for the justified complaints. The OIA have described this as “significantly higher” than in previous years, with one case in particular receiving over £65,000 in compensation. It would appear that for successful students, the amount of compensation they receive for their OIA complaint has never been higher.

However, it is important to note that while the number of complaints has reached an all-time high, only 27% of these complaints were found to be Justified, Partly Justified, or Settled in favour of the student. From our experience as OIA complaint specialists, making the complaint to the OIA is still a difficult prospect for many students and as such you may want to instruct a specialised education solicitor.

Our higher education solicitors are available to help throughout the entire process; from initial reviews and drafting the complaint to representing and liaising on your behalf. Our University lawyers deliver a first-class level of assistance and education law advice to students who need help. If you are making a complaint to your university or college, our OIA complaints specialists can offer their extensive experience to get you the outcome you deserve.

If you would like to discuss your matter further, please feel free to contact our education law team on 0333 202 7175 or send us an enquiry through our website. One of our education solicitors will be happy to discuss your University complaint further in a free consultation.