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Industrial action - CS051913

A student was in the final year of a BSc programme at the time of the industrial action. In March 2018 they raised concerns about the impact of the action on their assessments and the availability of their tutors, and on their mental health. After successfully graduating, the student instructed solicitors. In a Letter before Action the solicitors said the student was dissatisfied with the University’s response to their concerns and that the University had breached its contract with the student.

The University said that no breach of contract had occurred because to minimise the effects of the industrial action on the student it had:

  • given deadline extensions for the affected modules
  • extended the time available for students to get feedback on assessments
  • made staff available on non-strike days for individual and/or small group discussions
  • provided additional material online, including lecture and seminar material, and short quizzes so that students could test their own knowledge
  • put assessment details and guides online before teaching began
  • initiated student discussions on an online discussion board in place of facilitated group learning in seminars.

The University said it had no record of the student making a formal complaint.

The student complained to us.

We decided there were exceptional reasons to review the complaint even though the student had not completed the provider’s internal process and didn’t have a Completion of Procedures Letter (OIA Rule 7.3). In deciding the complaint was eligible, we noted:

  • the University had still been able to consider and respond to the issues of complaint
  • the student had raised their concerns as soon as they were aware of the impact of the industrial action on their studies and disability
  • staff didn’t direct the student to the complaints procedures in March 2018.

We decided the complaint was Partly Justified.

We decided that the University had taken appropriate steps to minimise the impact of the industrial action on the student’s academic outcomes and learning opportunities.

But the University had not recognised the individual effect of the industrial action on the student, and had not considered whether it would be reasonable to take further action or to provide additional support because of the student’s individual circumstances. In particular, the University hadn’t thought about giving the student a deadline extension for their other modules so that the deadlines were spaced out; the student had explained at the time that grouping deadlines together was increasing their anxiety.

We recommended that the University should offer the student £500 in compensation for the distress and inconvenience caused by these shortcomings.