October 02, 2012

UK Office of the Independent Adjudicator Recommends Against Ombuds for Universities

After an extensive survey of colleges and universities across England, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) has published its response the Government’s 2011 White Paper on Higher Education. OIA specifically considered the issue of whether the higher education sector should implement Campus Ombudsmen and associated support networks, but concluded that the Ombuds model found the in U.S. and Canada was not a good fit.

OIA's "Pathway 3 Consultation" sought views from across the higher education sector on effective strategies to promote the early resolution of complaints and appeals and better all-round complaints handling in universities.  The first three survey questions went to the issue of Campus Ombuds:

1a.  Please describe your experience and view of the nature and extent of existing campus ombudsman services provided by or through universities and students’ unions in England and Wales.
1b.  Should each university provide access to a campus ombudsman to resolve complaints at an early stage?
1c.  How should these campus ombudsmen be appointed?
Although the report concluded that early resolution of complaints on campus is a key strategic issue for the sector, Campus Ombuds were not recommended:

[T]here is no merit in limiting early resolution to one, single, new-made, organisational form of the campus ombudsman given the diversity of approaches and the record of achievement of a number of existing bodies in supporting students with complaints.  ...  In part, this is because of the difficulty of grafting on to the English and Welsh university complaints handling arrangements a concept – campus ombudsman – which “is more spoken about than practised” and sits uneasily with existing arrangements, notwithstanding its successful and variable deployment internationally.

Moreover, the report found that a Campus Ombuds might be confused with the existing Ombudsman function that is performed by the OIA as indepedent complaints handler of last resort.  Nonetheless, OIA does not rule out the Campus Ombuds might be tested on a limited basis, perhaps under a different name.  (Higher Education White Paper, Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System; OIA Pathway 3 Publications.)

Related posts: British Classical Ombudsman Reports Spike in University Complaints; British Higher Education Ombudsman Surveys Profession; Latest ENOHE Newsletter Traces Evolution of Campus Ombuds; As Complaints Soar, British Student Ombuds Considers More Transparency; UK's Office of the Independent Adjudicator Reports Record Complaints Against Universities; UK Office of the Independent Adjudicator Gathering Input on Campus Ombuds; UK Student Services Organization Skeptical About University Ombuds.

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