Student ombudswoman announces departure from OIA

Felicity Mitchell is not seeking a second term at the helm of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education after 18 years at the organisation

The independent adjudicator at the student ombuds for England and Wales has announced her departure as the organisation revealed that 2021 was another record year for student complaints.

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), the independent student ombuds body, handled 2,763 complaints in 2021, a 6% increase since 2020, which itself set a new record for student grievances.

Felicity Mitchell, the independent adjudicator at the ombuds, revealed that she has decided not to seek a second term at the helm when her current one ends in April 2023. Ms Mitchell joined the OIA in 2004, working her way up to deputy adjudicator in 2009. She began her five-year term in 2018.

I look forward to building on what we have achieved and meeting the challenges to come over the next 16 months
– Felicity Mitchell, OIA

That the OIA had consecutive record-setting years for student complaints is likely the impact of the disruption of the pandemic. The ombuds revealed that it received one complaint via its newly-launched Large Group Complaints route, designed to handle cases with a high degree of commonality from students at the same university or course. Based on overall OIA expenditure, each case referred to the ombuds costs a little under £1,800 to resolve. The organisation has, this year, had to increase core subscriptions by 5% because of rising caseloads and financial pressures in the sector.

On the announcement of her departure, Ms Mitchell said: “Over the last 18 years, I have been privileged to see the OIA grow into the confident, professional and kind organisation it is today. I am very proud to have been part of this and particularly to have led the organisation, with Ben, over the last four years. We still have much to do, and I look forward to building on what we have achieved and meeting the challenges to come over the next 16 months.”

The organisation’s chief executive, Ben Elger – who shares responsibilities for running the OIA with the independent adjudicator – said Ms Mitchell was “absolutely central to the development of a respected, forward-focused and independent ombuds organisation”.


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