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Students demand better value for money from universities

The increase is thought to be fuelled by the introduction of higher tuition fees. With students now paying £9,000 per year, before accommodation and other costs, they are more likely to see themselves as consumers of a service and more likely to complain if they don’t receive the quality of tuition or the exam results they believe they are due.Complaints to universities have risen year-on-year since 2010. Figures obtained last year show that some universities received hundreds of complaints, with Anglia Ruskin and Staffordshire topping the list at 992 and 948 complaints respectively. Most of these are dealt with internally, and universities are more likely than ever before to pay compensation to aggrieved students. When an agreement cannot be reached, the case is passed to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.Examples of complaints include a group of 23 students who complained about the quality and content of their course. The OIA found the complaint to be justified and recommended financial compensation and an overhaul of the university’s complaints procedure. In another example, a student complained that the lack of mentoring and support had led to her failing her placements and being withdrawn from the programme. The university was advised to reconsider the student’s appeal, which was subsequently successful. Around one in ten cases is referred up to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. “I think the decision to raise the fees has had an impact on student thinking,” says Adjudicator Rob Behrens. “Students do see themselves more as consumers than they used to. They want the best possible degree they can get.”Angela Sandhal, education law solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, said: “Students are becoming increasingly confident about exercising their right to complain and holding universities to account when their expectations of the service they are paying for are not met. As well as complaining to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, there are other legal remedies available to students and we may well see a sharp rise in such cases, particularly where the OIA has not been able to provide an adequate outcome.”
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