Case Study 78
A university was unable to demonstrate that it had properly considered late diagnoses of disability for eight students who had appealed unsuccessfully against the termination of their registration on an undergraduate course.
After some negotiation the university agreed that all eight cases would be referred back to the Examinations Board.
The Examinations Board reconsidered the cases and decided to re-admit all eight of the students to the course.
Case Study 79
Complaint: A student was awarded a third class degree. The OIA upheld his complaint that full account had not been taken of his disability.
Recommendation: The university should offer the student the opportunity to have his appeal against the Board of Examiners’ decision reheard by a freshly-constituted Appeals Committee, and the sum of £2,000 in respect of the distress and inconvenience caused by his appeal not being properly considered.
Effect on student: Degree upgraded to a 2:2 following the new appeal. Compensation paid.
Case Study 80
Issues: Supervision; Placement
Complaint: The OIA upheld a student’s complaint that lack of mentoring and support on her teacher training placements led to her failing the placements and being withdrawn from the programme.
Recommendation: The university should reconsider the student’s appeal as soon as practicable with particular emphasis on whether it complied with the procedure for students who were making unsatisfactory progress in their placements.
Effect on student: The student’s appeal was successful. She wrote to us to confirm that she has now qualified as a teacher and is working as a Newly Qualified Teacher while studying for an MA in Education.
Case Study 81
Complaint: The OIA upheld a complaint from a student that the university had not given sufficient weight to evidence from the university’s Student Psychological Services in assessing the impact of his depression on his studies.
Recommendation: The university should (a) reconsider the student’s appeal; (b) pay him £500 in compensation for delays; and (c) issue guidance to staff about the weight which should be given to evidence from Student Psychological Services in the consideration of extenuating circumstances cases.
Effect on student: The student’s degree was upgraded to a 2:1 following the reconvened appeal. Compensation was paid and the university is reviewing its guidelines.
Case Study 82
Complaint: The OIA upheld a student’s complaint about the university’s handling of allegations she brought about bullying and harassment, which had led her to transfer to another university.
Recommendation: The university should refund fees incurred by the student to enable her to resume her studies at a different university, pay financial compensation and revise its complaints procedures.
Effect on student: The student is undertaking her course at a different university.
Case Study 83
Issues: Mitigating Circumstances
Outcome: Part Justified
Complaint: A student wished to request an extension to the submission deadline for his dissertation, on grounds of extenuating circumstances. Under the university’s policies the panel that considered extenuating circumstances did not meet until after the deadline for submitting work had passed. It would not consider any extenuating circumstances claims if the work had already been submitted.
The OIA found that this had put the student in an unfair position because he had to make a decision about whether to submit his work and waive his right to claim extenuating circumstances without knowing whether such a claim would have been successful.
The student did not submit his work, and two months later his extenuating circumstances claim was turned down. By then it was too late in the academic year for the student to submit his work, except under the resit policy under which his mark would be automatically capped at 40 per cent.
Recommendation: The OIA recommended that the university give the student a further opportunity to submit his dissertation, without the mark being capped. It also recommended that the university review its procedures for requesting an extension to coursework deadlines.
Case Study 84
Issues: Mitigating Circumstances
Outcome: Part Justified
Complaint: The OIA considered a complaint from a student relating to the handling of her academic appeal.
The appeal process, from the student first lodging a complaint, to the university issuing a Completion of Procedures letter, took 11 months. While delays were in part due to the non-availability of the student for a one month period we found that the university was slow to respond to her and took no steps to keep her informed of the progress of her appeal.
The university’s procedures for dealing with appeals did not give deadlines and did not include any mechanism for ensuring that the student was regularly updated as to the progress of their appeal.
We found that the student had been caused distress and inconvenience by both the time taken to address her appeal and the lack of updates received. She was applying for jobs during the period of her appeal and therefore her final degree classification was particularly important to her.
Recommendation: We recommended that the university offer the sum of £300 for distress and inconvenience caused by its delay in handling her appeal. We also suggested that as good practice the university should review its procedures to include timescales and information on how students will be kept informed of progress.
Case Study 85
Issues: Disciplinary (non-academic)
Outcome: Not Justified
Complaint: A student was suspended after the university learned he was under police investigation for an alleged assault on another student and had also been arrested in relation to a second incident on university property, involving a female student at her student flat.
In the second incident the student had been at a party with some friends, one of whom it was alleged spoke about ‘wanting to group rape’ a female student. The student and his friends then followed the female student and her two male housemates back to their flat where they pushed their way in and refused to leave. They were in the flat for 20 minutes to an hour where their conversation ‘was over intentions to have sex.’
Following a disciplinary investigation the student was found guilty of breaches of the disciplinary code and, given the serious nature of the offences, he was expelled from the university. He appealed on the grounds that the penalty was too severe and disproportionate. His appeal was rejected.
The OIA concluded that his subsequent complaint was Not Justified. We considered that the university had acted in accordance with its regulations. We noted that the student had admitted the first offence of assault and received a police caution. While he denied any sexual intent behind the second incident he did admit entering the other students’ flat uninvited.
Case Study 86
Issues: Group Complaint; Course Content
Complaint: A group of 23 students among 27 on the course raised a complaint about a number of matters, including the course publicity material, the course content and its academic quality, the quality of teaching staff and the lack of industry standard course materials. Following exhaustion of the complaints procedures at the college where the students were based they brought their complaints to the university.
Under its complaints procedure general complaints from students at a partner college could not be considered by the university. However complaints of an academic nature did fall within the authority of the university as the awarding body. The partnership agreement with the college included among the university’s responsibilities ‘the standards of quality assurance of its awards and the quality assurance of schemes or courses leading to those awards’. The QAA also sets clear expectations in this area.
The university argued that the students’ concerns did not constitute an academic complaint. The OIA concluded that the issues raised by the students were at least arguably related to the standards and quality assurance of the university’s award, particularly in view of the proportion of the cohort which complained, and that the university should have investigated.
Recommendation: The OIA recommended that the university offer to consider the complaint and offer each student financial compensation. It also made suggestions relating to the university’s complaints procedure and the need to ensure that this is consistent with the UK Quality Code.