office of the independent adjudicator (OIA) completely unfit for purpose? Watch

Micha3l
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#21
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#21
The world is not fair today. It is divided into the poor and the rich. Access to justice is limited to those who have money.
Judicial review is not helpful in my view.. Judicial Review does not review the merits of the case.. It the process to establish whether the OIA has followed its procedure. Same applied for OIA' review - to establish whether the Uni followed its regulations... Only the court can decide the case on the basis of merits.
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HarrietJones
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#22
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(Original post by alma mater)
I agree that applying for and being granted judicial review is becoming increasingly difficult. The ConDem government with Chris Grayling as the then 'Justice Minister' effectively scrapped judicial review in education, except for their friends, the rich. The OIA know this and encouraged it and that means that they will become increasingly unfair to poorer students. The OIA is also protected from proper scrutiny because being a registered charity (with shareholders!) it is both exempt from tax and exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (many of their deeply unfair practices are largely hidden away from scrutiny). It is a pity that the OIA does not realise that charity should begin at home (the OIA is funded by students) and not at their shareholders pockets.
Oh dear as a student in trouble this is a really interesting post but seems very depressing from a student point of view! Really Sucks!
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alma mater
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#23
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Oh dear indeed. The OIA is a registered charity. I wonder why? Is it because they are decent and fair-minded? No. Is it because charities are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and therefore not subject to full public scrutiny? I wonder.
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alma mater
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Is the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) really independent as its name suggests? Students that have had any dealings with the OIA know it is not independent and not fair to students.
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alma mater
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#25
Apart from the overwhelmingly negative experience and service that 97 out of every 100 students receive from the OIA, is there any other evidence that the OIA is profoundly biased in favour of universities and profoundly biased against students? Yes there is. The OIA is comprised of six organisations, which are:

Association of Heads of University Administration
Commttee of University Chairs
Guild HE
Higher Education Wales
Universities UK

and

The National Union of Students

So, over 80 percent of the OIA is made up of the university establishment, that looks after the university establishment!
Is the Office if the 'Independent' Adjudicator independent? Definitively and conclusively not.
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alma mater
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#26
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There may be some deluded students who still think the OIA can be trusted. It's time to bring them to their senses on that matter.
In the OIA Rules, effective from 9 July 2015, Rule 8.2 states the following:

'The OIA may reopen a Review and issue a revised Complaint outcome and/or revised Recommendations, where it is satisfied there is good reason to do so, and where, within a REASONABLE period of time after the issue of the complaint Outcome:
8.2.1 new evidence is submitted which is material to the outcome of the Review, and which could not reasonably have been obtained at an earlier date; or
8.2.2 information or representations received give reason to believe there might be a substantive error in the Complaint Outcome.'

Yet the Guidance Notes: Eligibility and the Rules, effective from 9 July 2015, states the following:

'THIS NOTE DOES NOT COVER THE RULES RELATING TO THE REVIEW PROCESS ONCE A COMPLAINT HAS BEEN ACCEPTED FOR CONSIDERATION.'

Then curiously, suspiciously and in direct and sense contradiction, is appended on the end of the Guidance Notes as follows:

'The OIA has the discretion to reopen its review where there is good reason to do so. It will normally consider such a request provided that it is brought within 28 DAYS of either the issue of the Complaint Outcome, or the date that confirmation of the Recommendations has been sent to the parties.'
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alma mater
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It may not be obviously apparent just how significant the above post is. There are two points:

The OIA Rules take precedence over the Guidance Notes, and the Guidance Notes do NOT apply to complaints that have been accepted for review - if a student asks for a Complaint Outcome to be reopened that it has to have been accepted for consideration in the first place.
The OIA claim that it is UNREASONABLE for them to consider new and often vitally important evidence if that evidence is submitted to the OIA after more than 28 days after the issue of the Complaint Outcome. This is not only grotesquely unfair to students, but it also encourages universities to play the game of prevarication. If the OIA finds a complaint to be Not Justified because the evidence the student has submitted is not definitive enough for them (the burden of proof lies with the student) and that student then asks their university for definitive information under the FOIA and or the DPA, which can take up to 28 and 40 days respectively, then that new information will be deemed by the OIA to be UNREASONABLY out of time - more than 28 in the Guidance Notes, which actually do not apply, since the Rules apply. The OIA and universities have nicely stitched-up students.
The OIA is massively deceiving students on this issue and their Complaints Department have ignored my submissions to them about this. I wonder why?
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LeoFernandes
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alma mater ... I have currently got a case with the OIA. I have strong evidence that the University have not followed procedures. I expect the OIA to find my complaint unjustified. I expect to subsequently take them to judicial review and win. A primary motive, is to help get rid of the OIA for all future students. A ground at judicial review will be the appearance of bias and conflict of interest in the OIA. I would need to supply evidence on top of that given in Budd v OIA and Sandher v OIA. I have learnt a few things from your posts and I can tell you are well read. If you are willing to offer advice with regards to my complaint, I'd be really grateful. I think you'l learn a few points from the evidence I have collected as well.
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alma mater
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#29
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Thanks for your post Leo. You are right to be very sceptical about the OIA. Only 4 out of every 100 complainants have their complaint found to be justified by the OIA. Those 4 then receive derisory compensation by the OIA. I hope your complaint goes well, but if doesn't then you have to think about acting quickly. The time frame for applying for judicial review is very tight. The OIA also know that most students cannot afford judicial review, and that is why the OIA doesn't care how unfair or poor their Complaint Outcomes are. I would be happy to offer you as much advice as I can and would also be interested to here more about your investigations into the OIA.
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alma mater
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#30
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Today let's look at the 'magnificent' Principle 3, which states:

'The OIA does its task properly if it continues its investigation until it is confident that it has all the material it needs in order to make a decision on the individual complaint, and then makes its decision.'

No, no, no. The OIA does its task PROPERLY if it continues its investigation....in order to make a FAiR decision....

Implied n Principle 3 is that the OIA's decision does not need to be fair. And, as it turns out most OIA's decisions are not fair to students. So much for Principle 3.
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alma mater
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#31
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Doesn't it make you feel all warm inside knowing that the OIA is such a principled organisation? No, me neither.
Let's look at the 'veritable' Principle 6, which states:

'The purpose of the OIA scheme is to provide FREE and informal complaints handling...'

If only that were true. The OIA has a yearly budget of millions of pounds. Where does that money come from? Is it from the OIA money fairy, or does it grow on trees? No, it comes from students. On average each complaint costs around £2000 pounds. That money comes from student fees paid to universities which are then passed on to the OIA. If you asked most students if they thought the OIA 'free' scheme was value for money, they would say definitely not. There's not much free in life, and the OIA are not only not free, but are in fact very expensive and very poor value for money. Oh dear,another OIA Principle is debunked.
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alma mater
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#32
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Today the OIA published its 2016 Annual Report. As in previous years, only 4 out of every 100 complaints were found to be justified. Does any student really believe that the OIA is impartial and fair to students? The 4% figure speaks for itself.
In the self-congratulatory drivel that passes for a Report the OIA produce the following vomit inducing nonsense:

Learning from complaints about the OIA's service:

'We recognise the value of the learning we can gain from service complaints..'

Yeah right. This is hypocrisy of the most disgusting kind. I complained to the OIA's complaints department, headed by Ms Sarah Liddell, about the grotesque contradictions between the OIA Rules and its Guidance Notes and I was told to go take a running jump.I will promise this to the OIA: learn from my complaint you will, no matter how long it takes. Watch this space.
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alma mater
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#33
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Today's spot-light will be the Chair of the OIA Board. This figure is none other than Dame Suzie Leather. For those who are not members of the glitteratti, she is better known in the media as 'the quango queen'. Not my description, but hey, if the caps fits, or should that be crown?
She is listed as number 31 in Quentin Letts' Book, '50 People Who Buggered Up Britain.' And now she's in charge of the OIA! How much is she being paid this time? Whatever it is, it is students who are paying the bill.
The OIA typifies everything that is most rotten in this country: the establishment looking after themselves at the expense of ordinary people.
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D001
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The OIA is meant to be a cheap, reliable and quick alternative to the courts.

From my experience it took the OIA 5 months to deal with my complaint and cost me nothing, so I would agree it is cheap and quick.

In my opinion, the problem is the reliability of the decision. The decision is meant to be made by someone suitably qualified, however, it is the OIA that determines who is suitably qualified. The Assistant Adjudicators who make the decisions on a case (I believe) do not in general have any specific qualifications. Simply a degree and some previous customer service related experience. In a court of law a skilled judge sometimes gets it wrong (which is why we have higher courts). Therefore the quality of the decision is going to be significantly less.

The OIA is independent in that it doesn't work directly for the university or the student. However, it is a company that is paid to review decisions. It therefore has its own agenda of reviewing decisions as quickly and cheaply as possible.

I believe the process itself is bias towards the university. Universities are professionals and so have experience of dealing with complaint. Students are amateurs. Universities also have access to solicitors and so know their rights. Students because of their vulnerable position generally do not have access to solicitors. Also the OIA perhaps incorrectly advises they are not necessary. The only help a student has is their Student Union, and that depends on how helpful and well informed their Student Union is. Yet it is the student's responsibility to persuade the OIA their complaint is justified. This is very difficult to do when you are not fully aware of your rights. Also the OIA does not publish the rules it uses to make decisions and also does not publish previous decisions in full so you can get an appreciation of how they are derived (in English law I believe this is called case law where previous decisions act as a precedent for new decisions). This makes it an even harder task.

Finally the OIA are not accountable for their decisions. All they have to do is make a decision. It does not have to be the best answer. I believe challenging the OIA via judicial review is more to do with the process the OIA applied rather than the actual decision. I believe you can only challenge a decision if it is significantly irrational or unreasonable, as the courts have stated they will be slow to intervene in such matters. There isn't (as far as I'm aware) anything in the OIA procedures that ensure a correct or best possible decision is made. You can inform the OIA of mistakes in its complaint outcome, however, the OIA rarely (if ever) will reopen a case.

As far as politician's are concerned, if you are not happy with the decision then you are free to take the matter to court, like you would if there was a consumer dispute. I fully appreciate that this in many cases is not practical and so makes the purpose of the OIA somewhat questionable.

I personally would recommend only going through the OIA process with the help of your SU (if they are well informed and helpful) or after legal advice from a higher education law specialist, to at least inform you of the merits of your case. There are some out there and I know of one that offers legal aid for judicial reviews. There are strict time limits to adhere to and more options solicitors can take, so it’s best to get advice as early as possible.
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alma mater
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#35
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Thanks for your post D001.
Compared to judicial review the OIA Complaints process is relatively cheap, but at £2000 pounds per case it is still a lot, and this is paid for by student tuition fees.
Your case was quite quick at 5 months, but mine was not so quick at 19 months.
You are right that the reliability (fairness) of the decision is most important. OIA decisions are never fair to students because they don't have to be: the OIA themselves specify that they only have to be reasonable. not fair.
The OIA is obviously biased towards the academic establishment because it is comprised of the academic establishment. Five of the six directors of the OIA Board are from the academic establishment, and they approve the OIA Rules. The sixth member of the Board is from the National Union of Students, and I have spoken to her myself, and I can assure all students she does nothing to make the OIA system fair for them. The Board members have informed me that they act collectively - read into that what you like.
The OIA is a law unto itself - it is not subject to the FOIA, it tried desperately to avoid the scrutiny of judical review (Baroness Deech), and its Rules and Guidance Notes are misleading, contradictory and unfair - take a close look.
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alma mater
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I was recently in touch with the OIA to ask why Rule 8 follows Rule 9 in their Guidance Notes. The OIA informed me that the number 8 always follows the number 9. I said no it doesn't, and they said yes it does, and I said no it doesn't and they said yes it does. When you count from 1 to 10, does the number 8 logically come after the number 9? In the OIA world of fantasy numerics it does...apparently. This may seem a rather trivial point, but I can assure all students it is not. It is calculatedly intended to deceive for several reasons. Firstly, reopening a review after the student had been issued a complaint Outcome was never within the legal ambit of the Guidance Notes, and it still isn't, despite the OIA wrongly claiming it was and is. The published Guidance Notes on the OIA website proves them wrong. It's a bit like shooting yourself in the foot and then screaming well I didn't do it. Yes you did. Secondly, this matters because the 28 day guillotine (instead of a reasonable amount of time, which is variable depending on the circumstances) on the possibility of reopening a review is designed to deliberately and seriously disadvantage students, despite the OIA stating categorically that it is not designed to do so. What this all boils down to is that this provides clear evidence that the OIA cannot be trusted to be fair to students. I have repeatedly pointed out these serious issues to the OIA and they just stick their fingers in their ears and shout blah, blah, blah, what you going to do about it? They are about to find out.
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D001
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(Original post by alma mater)
Thanks for your post D001.
Compared to judicial review the OIA Complaints process is relatively cheap, but at £2000 pounds per case it is still a lot, and this is paid for by student tuition fees.
Your case was quite quick at 5 months, but mine was not so quick at 19 months.
You are right that the reliability (fairness) of the decision is most important. OIA decisions are never fair to students because they don't have to be: the OIA themselves specify that they only have to be reasonable. not fair.
The OIA is obviously biased towards the academic establishment because it is comprised of the academic establishment. Five of the six directors of the OIA Board are from the academic establishment, and they approve the OIA Rules. The sixth member of the Board is from the National Union of Students, and I have spoken to her myself, and I can assure all students she does nothing to make the OIA system fair for them. The Board members have informed me that they act collectively - read into that what you like.
The OIA is a law unto itself - it is not subject to the FOIA, it tried desperately to avoid the scrutiny of judical review (Baroness Deech), and its Rules and Guidance Notes are misleading, contradictory and unfair - take a close look.
Thanks for your reply. I agree with you, and did not realise that it works out to be £2,000.00 per case – which sounds very expensive for what it is.

19 months is far too long to wait for a complaint outcome. I can't imagine how you coped with the stress of not knowing for that amount of time.

I really don’t understand what “reasonable in all the circumstances means?” Do you know? Defined by the oxford dictionary “reasonable” means “having sound judgement, fair and sensible” and so there should be an element of fairness applied to both the student and the university. However, I’m not sure if the OIA applies any fairness to the student
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alma mater
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D001 you asked if I knew what 'reasonable in all the circumstances' means. Unfortunately nobody knows what it means, especially the OIA. It's complete gobbledegook that spills out of those who work for the OIA like verbal diarrhoea. Blue sky thinking, the gig economy, crazy old mugwump, honest politicians, and reasonable in all the circumstances - these nebulous concepts exist only in the minds of deluded establishment bureaucrats, like of our friends at the OIA.
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D001
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I think you’re right. All of the OIA rules appear to be designed to give their adjudicators complete freedom to decide whatever they like. In theory this means that the adjudicator could give you an intelligent decision, but there isn’t a requirement for it.

There’s also no incentive to make intelligent decisions, as it doesn’t seem that decisions are audited, or can be challenged by judicial review unless it is almost impossible to justify. The judge says in Thilakawardhana v OIA that to challenge a decision the test that the judge must apply “is whether the decision is one to which no reasonable decision maker possessed of expertise reasonably to be expected of the defendant (OIA) could have come”. The judge admitted that this is a cautious approach which he/she has to take and is a “high hurdle” that has to be reached.

Adjudicator’s will therefore never know if they are making intelligent decisions and it doesn’t necessarily matter to them even if they are not.

According to the Sandha V OIA ruling, adjudicators make decisions independently from the board of directors and so they are not accountable to them. Not that it matters as I don’t think there is any incentive for the board of directors to have a complaints system that makes intelligent decisions.

The question of bias was challenged Sandha V OIA but the judge concluded that the OIA wasn’t bias because the majority of board members are independent (5 board members are chosen by the higher education sector, 1 by National Union of Students, 8 are independent), and they are all duty bound to keep the OIA independent, and there is no evidence of the board not keeping the OIA independent. Personally, I wouldn’t trust the board just because they are “duty bound” and also just because there is no evidence doesn’t mean there isn’t bias in the board. The OIA board meetings are not transparent so there is unlikely to be any evidence. The independent board members may be in the majority but there certainly is an unfair number representing the higher education sector compared to representing the student.

I believe the OIA is fit for purpose from the higher education sector’s point of view as I’m not aware of any poor decisions effecting the universities, and the OIA awards tiny sums of money when complaints are found justified compared to the student’s losses. The OIA is possibly fit for purpose from politicians’ point of view as it reduces the number of student complaints clogging up the courts.

From the students point of view it is unfit for purpose because if your decision is found not justified, you have no way of knowing if the decision is accurate and so are still required to get legal advice from a really good higher education law solicitor and possible further legal action. I just feel that students are put off seeking legal advice until after they’ve gone through the university complaints procedure and the OIA procedure due to a blind faith that they will make a reasonable decision when they probably won’t, only to find out had they taken early legal advice they would have had a much better chance of getting the result they were after. I talk from personal experience!
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alma mater
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The OIA exists to fool students into believing that their complaints/concerns will be fairly reviewed by an education Ombudsman. It is an entire sham. All students pay for this sham from the collective student fee pool, whether they use the 'services' of the OIA or not. It would be more productive for the millions of pounds that are given to the OIA from student fees to be given back and divided up amongst all students so they could just do a big wee wee up against a wall after celebrating the demise of this wretched institution.. The overpaid numpties at the OIA could then pay a visit to the job centre.
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