OIA closes its highest ever number of cases

The independent student complaints ombuds for higher education in England and Wales says student complaints rose by 10% in 2020

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) has published its 2020 Operating Report 2020 and 2021 Operating Plan.

The independent student complaints ombuds for higher education in England and Wales says it received 2,604 complaints in 2020, which represents a 10% increase on 2019 – its highest ever number.

It closed its highest ever number of cases (2,597), almost 20% more than in 2020.

As well as delivering a record number of webinars and online events for providers, students and their representative bodies during 2020, the OIA also developed its Good Practice Framework on Requests for additional consideration.

The Operating Plan 2021 sets out the OIA’s intentions for 2021 and what it hopes to have achieved by the end of the year. These include:

  • Responding to 95% of enquiries within two working days
  • Making 90% of eligibility decisions (or requesting further information) within 10 working days
  • Closing 75% of cases within six months of receipt
  • Increasing the availability of “on demand” content for providers and student representative bodies on its website
  • Developing a Large Group Complaints process for handling complaints from large groups of students “where there is a high degree of commonality between the complaints”, following the consultation on group complaints launched last November.

Last November, the university ombudsman said it had received 200 complaints from students that related to the impact of coronavirus but had not recommended any receive financial compensation. 

Independent adjudicator Felicity Mitchell said then that it was “to providers’ credit” that the ombudsman had not seen any cases where students had been “directly academically disadvantaged because of the disruption”.

“Providers have done better in some cases than in others at finding ways to make up for the learning students missed out on,” she added.

The OIA will publish its Annual Report 2020 in the Spring.

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