OIA publishes case summaries of complaints arising from the impact of Covid-19

We have published our first set of case summaries of complaints arising from the impact of coronavirus.

View our Coronavirus Case Summaries
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The complaints we have considered to date mostly relate to the last academic year because it often takes some time for complaints to reach us. We have selected the summaries to illustrate our approach to different scenarios in the complaints we have seen so far.

We include examples of how we have approached cases where the student has not first raised their complaint through their higher education provider’s internal processes, and cases where the provider has not considered their concerns.

In cases where the provider has considered the student’s concerns, we have considered whether the provider did enough to make sure that the student was not academically disadvantaged by the disruption and could meet their learning outcomes, and whether the provider delivered what was promised and what was broadly equivalent to its usual arrangements.

Where we have decided that a provider has not done enough, we have made Recommendations to put things right for the student.

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator said:

“The pandemic has been very challenging for everybody. We recognise that many people in providers have been working incredibly hard to minimise disruption and to support students, and that students and those who support them have faced very real difficulties. We are acutely aware that there are limits to what is reasonable or even possible in this context. But students must still be treated fairly.

It is to providers’ credit that we have not so far seen any cases where the student has been directly academically disadvantaged because of the disruption, but it is also important that providers deliver what was promised or something broadly equivalent to it. Providers have done better in some cases than in others at finding ways to make up for the learning students missed out on.

We hope that the case summaries will be helpful to providers, students and their representative bodies in illustrating what we consider to be good practice.”


Notes to editors

  1. The summaries were published on our website on 26 November.
  2. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) is the independent student complaints ombuds service for higher education in England and Wales. It is the designated operator of the student complaints’ scheme under the Higher Education Act 2004.
  3. Our Scheme is free to students, and has been designed to be accessible to all students, without the need for legal representation.
  4. We have a wide remit to review student complaints about higher education providers in England and Wales, as set out in our Scheme Rules.
  5. In 2019 we received 2,371 complaints. Complaints to us have been rising steadily over the last few years and this has continued in 2020.
  6. We have to date received a little under 200 complaints arising from the impact of coronavirus. There is always a time lag in complaints reaching us, because students need to first raise their complaint through their provider’s internal complaints process and then have up to 12 months to come to us.
  7. The case summaries relate to complaints about the impact of the disruption on the last academic year. We are only now starting to receive complaints relating to the current academic year.
  8. Where we decide that a complaint is Justified or Partly Justified we make Recommendations to the provider to put things right for the student. In some cases this might include a partial refund of tuition fees.
  9. You can find further information about the Scheme and our work at https://www.oiahe.org.uk/.