As Rob Behrens prepares to step down from his post as the Chief Executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, he is looking back on the significant progress his agency has made since 2008. When he took office, many English and Welsh universities were skeptical about the need for an Ombudsman to hear student grievances and feared a loss of academic indepedence. Behrens tells Times Higher Education that he believes the doubters have been won over.
“We have argued for an ombudsman service which is genuinely engaged and we have demonstrated that that is of great use to the sector,” Mr Behrens said. “We deal with difficult cases that universities have sought their best to resolve and haven’t resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant; we enable universities to draw the line. Our role of ombudsman of last resort is now appreciated and, fundamentally, we have never sought to infringe on the academic freedom of a university.” He also said that OIA's independence has been a key part of its ability to criticize universities. (THE.)
Behrens work has been very influential on European Ombuds in higher education. Ombuds in North America should be aware of these developments and differences.
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