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University appeals and complaints on the increase

Due to the increase in tuition fees, students are often leaving university £40–50,000 in debt. As a result, they are more likely to view themselves as consumers as well as students. Overall, some four in ten students say they have not been satisfied with their course.

Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, commented: “The shift in England from public funding to increased fees means that students are understandably, and rightly, demanding more from their university courses. Universities are responding to this and are also improving the amount of information to students about courses to ensure that their experience matches their expectations.” Students who pay £9,000 per year in tuition fees are more likely to complain if they feel they have not been adequately prepared for the jobs market.Last year, over 2,000 students complained to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) for Higher Education, with 200 winning payouts – although the OIA found in favour of 500 students in all. In total, £400,000 in compensation was paid, an average of £2,000 each. As well as successful complaints about inadequate support and supervision, handling of academic appeals and fitness to practise reviews,  there have also been cases where the universities’ approach to sexual harassment and assault complaints have been investigated.

Angela Sandhal, education law solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, said: “The Office of the Independent Adjudicator can provide many students with grounds to complain with a suitable remedy.  In some cases where complaints have been upheld, recommendations have been made for university tuition fees to be refunded to allow a student to resume their studies at another university.”

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