University student complaints regarding courses reach a record high

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Last year witnessed a record surge in complaints from students in England and Wales regarding their university courses.

Out of the total 2,763 complaints received by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), over a third of them were directly related to the repercussions of the pandemic.

According to the report, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) stated that the compensation awarded to students surpassed £1.3 million. The report also indicated that the notable increase in figures was attributed to factors such as staffing concerns, industrial action, and delays in submitting complaints from the previous year (2020).

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) stated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “some students discovered that the learning experiences they anticipated were not being fulfilled as expected.”

The OIA attributed the 6% increase in the total number of complaints submitted in 2021, in part, to the aforementioned issue. The largest category of complaints by a significant margin pertained to the delivery of courses.

Certain students filed complaints regarding their inability to access in-person facilities such as laboratories, while others expressed their disappointment at not being able to pursue their studies abroad.

A substantial number of students raised concerns about staffing-related problems, such as the presence of inadequately prepared substitute teachers and the departure of key experts in their respective fields from the university.

The heightened reliance on remote learning posed challenges, with numerous students emphasizing technical failures that had a detrimental impact on their learning experience.

The report further noted that “certain students faced difficulties with digital literacy, particularly during online timed exams. Additionally, limited typing skills adversely impacted the performance of some individuals.”

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According to the National Union of Students (NUS), “digital poverty” emerged as a significant concern among certain students, while numerous others experienced financial hardships, resorting to measures like relying on food banks and using buy-now-pay-later loans for support.

An NUS representative expressed that the substantial volume of complaints came as “no surprise,” emphasizing that students were reaching their breaking point. Noteworthy complaints listed in the report that were deemed partially or wholly justified include:

  1. A group of masters students who received a 50% refund on their tuition fees after raising concerns about the practical arts program and misleading advertising.
  2. A student who suffered a serious injury while at university and did not receive adequate information about the Disabled Students’ Allowance.
    Medical students studying at an overseas campus where the facilities were not properly completed in time for their arrival.

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