The Student Ombudsman – or ‘Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), to give it its full name – was set up by Labour. From 2005 it has been a compulsory scheme which all HE institutions in UK had to join.
The office’s services are free to students. It deals with individual complaints against HE institutions.
The office will look at complaints on a range of issues – from teaching and facilities, through student accommodation and welfare, to discrimination, bullying and harassment.
Since Labour set it up, it has functioned as an independent body to which students can take complaints if they don’t feel their University or HE institution has dealt with it properly.
But the last ten years has seen many changes in HE.
‘During the intervening decade, we’ve seen both the extension of Student Loans to undergraduates and the expansion of teaching to degree level at non-university colleges (albeit on behalf of or approved by a recognised university). All students attending these (mostly private) institutions are outside of the adjudicator system – simply because so few of them existed when the legislation was first passed.’
This was why Labour, in the House of Lords, introduced an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill to cover these. And this week they succeeded.
As Dianne Hayter Labour’s Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister in the House of Lords puts it
‘Labour believes that access to an ombudsman is, for all consumers a basic consumer right, whether as patients, or as purchasers of energy, legal, financial or local government services. It helps ensure they get a good service but also drives up standards. We have a proud record of establishing and supporting Ombudsmen. That is why we took the initiative and tabled an amendment to this Bill, first at Committee and then Report, to extend the OIA’s purview to all undergraduates.’
We’re pleased to say that the Government on this occasion listened – and even thanked Labour Lords for pushing the issue.
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