Student complaints in England and Wales hit record high for fourth year running
University students made a record number of complaints last year to the higher education watchdog in England and Wales for the fourth year running.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) received 2,850 complaints last year, 3% more than in 2021, and it awarded £1,050,114 in compensation.
It warned of “increasing levels of distress among students who are struggling to cope”.
The watchdog reported a rise in the proportion of complaints about academic appeals, up from 29% in 2021 to 38% in 2022, while complaints about ‘service issues’ relating to aspects such as teaching, course delivery, and supervision fell from 45% to 38%.
The OIA said: “This rebalancing of our caseload is likely to reflect the end of the ‘no detriment’ or safety-net policies that had been in place during the pandemic and had resulted in fewer appeals, as well as the reduction through the year in the number of complaints related to Covid-19 disruption.”
Students are at breaking point, with the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling rents pushing many over the edge. It is no surprise the OIA has received a record number of complaints
More than a third of the complaints received in 2021 were linked to Covid-19 disruption, while that figure fell to just under a quarter in 2022.
Nearly two in five (38%) of the complaints to the OIA from students were about academic appeals, including problems with marking and final degree results, compared with 29% in 2021.
It also noted a “small number of complaints” linked to industrial action.
Felicity Mitchell of the OIA said it had been another difficult year for students and universities, with the cost-of-living crisis and strikes: “We are seeing increasing levels of distress among students who are struggling to cope, and this is a major concern. At the same time the pressures on providers make it more difficult for them to support students effectively.”
Chloe Field, the Vice President for Higher Education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “Students are at breaking point, with the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling rents pushing many over the edge. It is no surprise the OIA has received a record number of complaints.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Whilst complaints have increased, it is good to see that the OIA is working to resolve these issues, ensuring that more complaints were closed than ever before in the last year.”