OIA publishes new guidance on Fitness to practise

The OIA has published a new section of the Good Practice Framework: Fitness to practise.

View the Good Practice Framework: Fitness to practise
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Higher education providers that run courses leading to professional qualifications should have in place procedures that ensure any concerns about a student’s fitness to practise are dealt with fairly, promptly and proportionately. The Fitness to practise section gives good practice guidance for providers in designing these procedures and in handling individual cases. The section includes guidance on:

  • What fitness to practise is, including behaviour-, health-, and disability-related fitness to practise concerns;
  • How to help students understand the professional standards they need to meet and to support them to meet those standards where possible;
  • What a fair process looks like.

The guidance is drawn from the OIA’s broad experience of handling complaints, and was put together in consultation with the Good Practice Framework Steering Group. A draft was published for consultation in June 2019 and feedback was received from providers, student representative bodies, other higher education bodies, professional, statutory and regulatory bodies, stakeholders and interest groups. The final version incorporates many of the very helpful suggestions we received.

To coincide with the publication of the fitness to practise section, we are also publishing some case summaries of complaints involving fitness to practise issues.

Felicity Mitchell, Independent Adjudicator, said:

“Fitness to practise processes are about ensuring the safety of the student and those around them, including members of the public, and preserving public confidence in the profession. This must be balanced with fairness to the individual student whose career is at risk. The process should be supportive even when the outcome is that the student cannot continue with their studies.

We are very grateful to all of those who contributed to the development of this section. The purpose of the guidance is to help providers treat their students fairly, not to provide answers to what are often complex questions that involve professional judgment. We hope the section will be another useful addition to the Good Practice Framework.”

The guidance will inform the way that the OIA considers complaints relating to fitness to practise concerns from the 2020/21 academic year.


Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Sarah Liddell, Head of Leadership Office, mediarelations@oiahe.org.uk, 0118 959 9813.

  1. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) is the independent student complaints ombuds for higher education in England and Wales. It is the designated operator of the student complaints’ scheme under the Higher Education Act 2004.
  2. The Fitness to practise section is the fifth section of the Good Practice Framework, which provides operational guidance to support higher education providers in England and Wales. The Framework sets out overriding principles including accessibility, fairness and timeliness. The other sections are: Handling student complaints and academic appeals, Supporting disabled students, Delivering learning opportunities with others, and Disciplinary procedures. Learn more about the sections of the Good Practice Framework.
  3. The Good Practice Framework is one element of the OIA’s good practice work. We also provide guidance through a range of webinars, podcasts, workshops and visits. Find out more about our upcoming outreach programme.