Number of student complaints rises

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The Independent Online

Student complaints about their treatment by universities rocketed in the year after the introduction of top-up fees, according to a watchdog.

They rose by 25 per cent during 2007 to 734, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) disclosed yesterday. Figures also show the number of complaints upheld also rose significantly from 19 per cent to 26 per cent. The biggest rise was among mature students.

Most of the complaints for 2007 were made in the first half of the year when students having to pay top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year were in their first full year at university.

However, many of the complaints were about examination results with students realising that a 2.2 degree was not enough to find a good job.

"The rise in complaints is due to many more students challenging their degree and exam results," said Baroness Deech of the OIA. "This is probably because there are so many graduates emerging onto the job market now that graduating with, say, a lower second, is insufficient for success."

Students are increasingly aware of the complaints procedures, she added. Years of rising debt levels among students culminating in the introduction of top-up fees have also made them demand more value for money, according to academics and student leavers. In all, 64 per cent of the complaints were related to degree or exam results – while 11 per cent were over disciplinary proceedings and accusations of plagiarism. The OIA recommended that universities pay £173,000 in compensation as a result.

The OIA is recommending that universities set up their own "campus ombudsmen" so that complaints could be dealt with more swiftly and simply.

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