Public interest cases

Placements - September 2015

 

Insufficient provision

Nottingham Trent University

A student at Nottingham Trent University complained to the OIA after the University rejected her complaints that she had been able to complete her professional qualification in one year as her placement did not include enough practice hours.

The OIA found the complaint Justified on two main grounds. First, although she had raised concerns about lack of hours early in the placement, the University failed to act and did not begin to look for a suitable alternative until four months later. We considered that this delay led to the student being unable to complete her qualification within one year. Second, we were critical of the way the University handled her complaints and the lack of information about how it had looked into the issues she raised.

We recommended substantial financial compensation to the student for delay in being able to seek employment as a qualified professional, and an additional sum for distress. We also recommended that the University review the way it manages placements.

We note that the student successfully completed studies with the University.

 

Transparency of decisions

University of Wolverhampton

A student at the University of Wolverhampton complained after her appeal against a decision to fail her second practice placement was turned down.

The student complained that evidence that she was failing the placement was not provided to her ‘on an ongoing basis’ before the placement was suspended.  A written report prepared within the University at the appeal stage was not shared with the student, meaning that she had no opportunity to comment. Where new material is introduced and is taken into account by the decision maker in reaching the final decision, the student should be informed of the new material and given the opportunity to comment on it. Failure to do so may undermine the fairness of the final decision.

The OIA found that the decision to dismiss the appeal without referring it to a panel was not reasonable in the circumstances of the case as further information had been gathered by the University following the first stage appeal. A panel would have given the student the opportunity to present her case in person and comment on the additional information.

The OIA found the case Justified.  We recommended that the University offer the student the opportunity to have her case considered by a second stage review panel.

 

Responsibility of students

University Campus Suffolk

A student taking a vocational course at University Campus Suffolk withdrew from her course following difficulties with the placement. She complained that she had been asked at short notice to decide whether to continue her placement after a close relative fell ill, and that she had been forced to withdraw from her degree programme.

In reviewing the case the OIA noted that the student’s difficulties with the placement were already being addressed by an action plan agreed with the placement provider, before her family member fell ill. There was no evidence that the student had been asked to choose between continuing the placement and withdrawing from the degree progamme. The student had previously discussed withdrawal with her tutors and set out clear reasons for doing so.

The OIA found the case Not Justified. We were satisfied that the university acted reasonably in working with the student to prepare an action plan to support her in overcoming concerns identified about her performance during the placement. It was clear that there were options available to her to discuss her concerns before deciding to withdraw.

 

Communication of placement outcomes

Manchester Metropolitan University

A student at Manchester Metropolitan University complained about his experiences with the professional placements on his course.

The student was required to complete placements at two different providers. At the end of the first placement the provider did not provide the required written review of his performance to the University. Shortly into the student’s second placement the second provider expressed concerns about aspects of his practice to the student and to the University. An improvement plan was put in place to support the student in meeting the required professional standards. However the student went on to fail the placement.

The OIA found elements of the student’s complaint Not Justified. However it considered that it was not reasonable for the University to have dismissed his complaint that the absence of the written review from the first provider  put him at a disadvantage when he began his second placement. We also found that the University had not acted reasonably in not sending the student a written explanation of why he failed the second placement.

The OIA found the complaint Partly Justified. We recommended financial compensation for distress and inconvenience.