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Resolution of student complaints in higher education institutions

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This paper examines the processes whereby students may bring complaints against higher education institutions. It stresses that a right to redress of grievance is fundamental to the relationship between students and universities. It focuses on internal complaints procedures and discusses the findings from a survey of a representative sample of institutions of which nearly two thirds (25 in total) responded with statistical and other data on the grounds of complaint, the ethnicity and other characteristics of complainants, and the outcome of adjudications. It reveals areas of commonality and divergence in practice and raises concerns about the fairness and accessibility of the procedures. The paper also includes discussion of the process for the external adjudication of student complaints established under the Higher Education Act 2004 and the way that complaints progress to it. The paper discusses the case for reform of higher education institutions’ student complaints procedures, which are surprisingly unregulated, including the introduction of a more independent element such as ‘campus ombudsmen’.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-121X.2007.00070.x

Affiliations: Professor of Law, University of Manchester

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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