A dubious new education record was set in 2011 as figures show that a new high of 1,600 students lodged official objections with the UK’s Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in 2011. This represents a 20% rise on 2010s total and a threefold increase on 2005.
Overall, more than 2,000 enquiries and 1,605 complaints were lodged in 2011 with the OIA, which was set up under Labour to arbitrate between students and universities in England and Wales.
Graeme Paton of the Telegraph reports that the rise is believed to be caused by students demanding better service and value for money in the wake of skyrocketing tuition costs.
The cost of a degree course tripled to £3,000 in 2006 and will rise again this September, allowing institutions to charge up to £9,000. The OIA is predicting that this hike will lead to new complaint records being set again over the next couple years.
The OIA awarded over £184,000 in compensation last year with the largest individual award being £10,000.
In one case, a student was awarded a first-class honours degree only to be told after his graduation ceremony that he should have received an upper-second. The university apologised for the blunder, which was blamed on an administrative error, and was ordered to pay £750 compensation.
However not all complaints are about customer service and students feeling ripped off. Academic plagiarism has also been the subject of a growing number of complaints. Most seem to stem from confusion as students and teachers are unsure where to draw the line and the student who suddenly gets marked down or expelled is appealing to the OIA.
One clear cut rejection came in the case of a student who received a zero mark for an essay which consisted of 50% unattributed material copy pasted from published sources. While this was an easy one where the student should have been guided by common sense, there is a booming industry in ready made and custom written essays. In many cases students aren’t taught how and when to properly reference other’s work.
“There is still a good deal to be done by a number of universities in setting out right at the beginning of programmes what is expected of students – both undergraduate and postgraduate – in terms of avoiding plagiarism and mastering technical competence in study skills,” said the report.
Rob Behrens, the OIA’s chief executive said:
“Although only constituting a small total, the number of complaints categorised in this way has doubled in percentage terms since 2008. In the context of the ready availability of essays for purchase on the internet, this growth is unsurprising.”