Student Complaints About Universities in England & Wales Reach All-Time High

United Kingdom Europe Higher Education News Statistics by Erudera News Apr 27, 2023

International Students

A record number of students have expressed dissatisfaction with courses offered at universities in England and Wales in 2022.

For the fourth year in a row, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), which reviews students’ complaints against their higher education institutions, received more complaints by students than ever before, a total of 2,850.

That was a three percent increase compared to previous year when students made 2,763 complaints against their higher education providers, Erudera.com reports.

£1,050,114 were awarded in financial compensation, with the highest single compensation being over £48,000, and 49 students receiving £5,000 or more.

OIA closed 2,821, which it said was also a record number and a six percent increase compared to 2021 when it closed 2,654 cases.

Complaints made for academic issues such as assessments, progress, and grades increased to 38 percent in 2022, up from 29 percent the previous year. Differently, the proportion of complaints about service issues such as teaching, course delivery, supervision, and course-related facilities dropped to 38 percent, significantly lower from 2021, when the percentage was 45 percent.

OIA Chief Executive Ben Elger said that last year was challenging and that OIA has teamed up with others in the regulatory landscape to contribute to key issues affecting students.

“We also continued to grow capacity alongside our ongoing focus on efficiency to manage our rising caseload,” Elger added.

Commenting on student complaints made in 2022, Independent Adjudicator Felicity Mitchell, who was in the role until last year, said that levels of distress among students are increasing and their struggle to cope with stress is a serious issue.

“At the same time, the pressures on providers make it more difficult for them to support students effectively. In this challenging context, we received and closed our highest ever number of complaints, and shared learning from complaints through our good practice and outreach work,” Mitchell said, further pointing out that she is pleased to leave OIA in a good position to continue the crucial work.

Despite the number being relatively small, other complaints accounted for 24 percent of cases and include:

  • Financial issues – six percent, no change from 2021
  • Disciplinary matters (academic) – five percent, same as 2021
  • Equality law / human rights – four percent, a slight drop from 2021, when five percent of complaints were made on this issue
  • Welfare / non-course service issues – four percent (five percent in 2021)
  • Disciplinary matters (non-academic) – three percent, down from four percent in 2021
  • Fitness to practice – two percent, no change from 2021

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