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

alma mater
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#41
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#41
The judge in the Sandha v OIA case concluded that the OIA was not biased against students because five members of the OIA Board are establishment figures from higher education and one member of the Board is from the National Union of Students. Not biased, really? These facts prove that the OIA is NOT independent and IS biased against students because over 80 per cent of the Board are from the academic establishment, and only one member is from the student body. Sadly Ms Sorana Vieru of the NUS does not represent student interests one bit. I spoke to her recently on the phone for 20 minutes about my concerns about the OIA and she spent every single minute telling me she was not interested, that she works 12 hour days, and had to make a phone call that was important. I was appalled at her attitude, and when Mr Mark Humphriss of the AHUA told me that all Board members, including the NUS, act collectively I was not in the least surprised. Those are the exact words he used in email to me. It's a bit like the six musketeers - all for one and one for all - in this case fighting against JUSTICE. In other words, the NUS Board member will tow the party line, or else, and tow it she does.
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D001
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#42
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#42
I agree with you. Although there also appears to be 8 independent board members as well. This still means that if the board make decisions collectively then to make an improvement that benefits the higher education sectors will only need the support of 3 out of the 8 independent directors. To get an improvement that will benefit the student will need the support of 7 out of the 8 independent directors. So yeah…very unfair.

I had my suspicions if the director chosen by NUS would actually be proactive in making improvements for the student and judging by what you said it sounds not.

Maybe you phoning her up has done some good as I’ve noticed some small improvements recently on the OIA website such as the section which now advises students that the OIA is subject to judicial review and the deadline. Also the OIA are upfront for the first time about losing a judicial review.
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alma mater
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#43
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#43
I've sent the NUS a substantial amount of information about how the OIA are deliberately misleading students on their website. If the NUS does not take this issue seriously and investigate it properly, then unfortunately I will ask the media to get involved, and then they will both be named and shamed. I will also be writing to the Secretary of State for Education and if they don't investigate, then I will be paying my MP a visit. The way the OIA is behaving is just too outrageous to let this go. Watch this space; there will be some development, whatever that may be.
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D001
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#44
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#44
Good, I’m pleased you’re taking action. The OIA have no right to mislead students. I agree it needs to be raised where possible. It’s all about finding someone in power that’s willing to help, which is not easy but at least got to be tried.

Every time a student is misled by the OIA or every time the OIA gets a complaint outcome incorrect, it has a significant negative effect on a person’s life. Also the university will continue to do whatever malpractice they are doing and so it is likely to affect more students in the future.
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Reality Check
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#45
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(Original post by alma mater)
The OIA found just 4 in every 100 complaints brought to it to be justified.

...

You have a greater chance of winning big on the Euro lottery than you have of receiving a fair hearing and a fair outcome from the OIA.
What is the logical link between these two statements - you've gone on from making an observation on the number of complaints thought justified to making a value judgement on whether or not the OIA's decisions are 'fair' or not?!
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alma mater
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#46
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The logical link is that other Ombudsman organisations find in favour of the complainant in much higher percentages. I also don't think that 96 out of every 100 students that complain to the OIA are wrong in believing that their complaint is justified - most students are not stupid.. I also know that the OIA behaved unfairly towards me, and I will prove it. It is therefore not illogical to think that they would treat most other students in a similar way. The OIA is also run by the academic establishment that protects the academic establishment, and that is not illogical even though it is unfair. The OIA does not even consider whether cases are decided fairly or not, merely whether their outcomes are reasonable. That makes the process unfair. I could continue with this list for a long time.
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alma mater
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#47
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#47
Today I'll provide some evidence that shows that the OIA is an unreasonable organisation. OIA Complaint Outcomes are based on the 'rationale' of 'reasonable in all the circumstances', not fairness.
Back in early 2015 the OIA published a consultation document/proposals on its website (and these documents are still on the OIA website) that asked for submissions about the changing of the OIA Rules, ostensibly to make the review process cheaper and quicker, but essentially to further disadvantage student complainants. The OIA proposed to change the rules concerning the possibility of reopening a review. They proposed that a review should only be reopened if an error was discovered or new evidence was submitted - crucially within a REASONABLE period of time. The consultation document did not say what a reasonable period of time might be. Only 30 people responded, and it can be assumed that most of those responses came from the 'independent' Board members. Only AFTER the consultation did the OIA decide that a reasonable period of time was 28 days. Why did the consultation proposals not mention this vital piece of information? No right-minded and reasonable person would consider that 28 days was reasonable. It takes 28 days to receive a response to an FOI request, and it takes 40 days to receive a response to an SAR. After my Complaint Outcome I needed further information from my university in order to then ask for my review to be reopened. I received new and vitally important information from my SAR, but the OIA then told me that I was 'well out of time' and that my review would not be reopened because the new information I had presented to the OIA was more than 28 days after the Complaint Outcome. Does anybody else think that the 28 day rule is reasonable? I believe it is entirely unreasonable and that the consultation was a complete sham because the consultation proposals never mentioned the 28 day rule. The consultation was an exercise in further stitching-up students.
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alma mater
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#48
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#48
The Kings College Survey done in 2010 makes interesting, but unsurprising reading:

'Student Satisfaction with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.'

This small survey makes it very clear that the overwhelming experience of students with OIA outcomes was disappointment.
I contacted the OIA to ask if they had any intention of undertaking another survey seven/eight years on from the first. They refused to reply to my query. They don't like my enquiries into them, and they will like them even less as I dig deeper.
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alma mater
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#49
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#49
OIA podcast: Lifecycle of a Complaint – Adjudication.



Today let’s look at the very bad practice that the OIA employs when it chooses to ignore its own Good Practice Framework.

On the OIA website is a document called the ‘Good Practice Framework’. This basically gives guidance to educational providers on how they should treat student complainants. This contains 8 principles of good practice. Lovely, or so you might think. But, here’s the very big fly in the ointment.

Principle 2: Clarity – Educational providers should ‘….give clear information about time limits.’ Yes, this is very important and it is eminently good advice. But does the OIA practice what it preaches? No, demonstrably not.

When a student receives their Complaint Outcome from the OIA they have just 28 days to ask for that review to be re-opened, and then only if they can prove that the OIA has made a substantive error, or that student can obtain and submit new information that the OIA believes is material within 28 days of receiving the Complaint Outcome.

And where is the above 28 day deadline made clear to students? Is it stated in the OIA Rules? No, it isn’t. Is it stated in the OIA podcast? No, it isn’t. The only place it is mentioned is hidden at the back of the OIA ‘Notes on Eligibility’ – they effectively hide Rule 8 by placing it after Rule 9, where you wouldn’t think to look for it. And to make matters worse, Rule 8 shouldn’t even be included in the ‘Notes on Eligibility. So the OIA hide a crucial time limit at the back of a document where it shouldn’t actually be! Do you trust the OIA?

The OIA podcast is silent on the critical 28 day deadline as follows:

Rebecca states the following:

‘If the decision is not justified, we don’t specifically invite comments or a response. However, if a complainant feels that there is a mistake in our decision, a substantive error, or something that we’ve overlooked, complainants can write to the assistant adjudicator who’s issued that decision and all of that correspondence, all of those comments will be reviewed and taken into account.’

Where is the mention of the crucial 28 day deadline? So much for the Good Practice Framework. The OIA clearly practices the Bad Practice Framework. And what about the podcast saying that they will re-open a review if they have ‘overlooked’ something. That is plainly wrong and plainly misleading, in a big way.

The above is proof that the OIA ignores its own Good Practice Framework advice, and students should have absolutely no trust in an organisation that is synonymous with hypocrisy and misinformation.
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D001
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#50
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#50
It’s bad that the OIA won’t look at your new evidence after 28 days even though it was impossible for you to get it before then. I can’t see how any Ombudsman with a real desire to resolve complaints correctly would adopt such a policy. I know it’s too late now for Judicial Review but is this something that could have been challenged?

Have you considered complaining to the university again using the newly acquired evidence? If the university fail to consider the complaint then the OIA may be obliged to review it. There was a Judicial Review case that had something similar, I think it may have been Gopikrishna v The OIA.

Also can you take your university to court on a private basis? It might be worth finding out if only to give yourself closure. I would recommend going to a very good higher education law solicitor as I don’t think a general solicitor will be able to help.

If it’s any consolation, I’ve been informed that the OIA will rarely (if ever) reopen a case. Even if they would have agreed to look at your new evidence, it’s highly likely they would have found a ridiculous reason to discount it.

The only good thing about your experience is it’s a really clear cut example of the OIA’s attitude towards students who have the misfortune of having to complain against their university. Should make it easy to explain to your local MP and possibly the University Minister.
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alma mater
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#51
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#51
Thanks for your comments D001.

The OIA won't reopen the review so they can avoid a possible judicial review. My solicitor wrongly informed me that if I obtained significant new evidence from my uni then the OIA would be obliged to reopen their review. My solicitor was wrong and I missed the window for judicial review. A lesson learned there: don't trust supposedly 'expert' legal advice.
I have contacted a number of other solicitors about suing my uni for breach of contract. None will offer no win no fee because compared to things like personal injury, there is little money in it for them.
I agree that the OIA almost never reopen cases, because they simply don't have to, and why would they do so? The OIA is there to serve the interests of universities, not students. The whole OIA review nonsense is just an elaborate game of smoke and mirrors to fool students and the wider public into believing that the OIA is a fair education ombudsman. What adds insult to this injury is that ultimately the OIA is funded out of student tuition fees. That is a double whammy for students: students pay to get shafted, but not in a good way.
I have recently contacted about half of the 20 or so members of the Board of the OIA. I told them that the OIA Guidance Notes are at significant and misleading variance to the Rules, and this is clear for all to see, and would they consider raising this issue with the OIA executive at their next Board meeting in September 2017. Not one of them has replied to me. That is fine and dandy because the 'independent' Board approve the Rules and Guidance Notes and so they are guilty of a cover-up of OIA malpractice.
My MP will have to investigate all this whether he likes it or not, and then off to the Secretary of State and the wider media I go with a full report against the OIA.
The OIA have been a law unto themselves for far too long, and I will do everything I can to bring them to some kind of account. I will never ever give-up, so let's see what happens. I've always been up for a good scrap.
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D001
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#52
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#52
I have every sympathy for your circumstances and think what you’re doing deserves credit. Don’t hold your hopes though!!!!

It’s funny with the OIA because I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want to resolve complaints correctly, taking into consideration both the uni and the student. But they make dumbfound decisions like in your case and many of the Judicial Review cases that make you think that they really are out to get students. Even on the rare occasion they decide in a student’s favour, they offer such little amount of money (if money is needed) to rectify the situation.

The OIA process doesn’t always follow logic so you definitely need an expert higher education solicitor for this area. There aren’t many out there, but there are a few and not surprisingly it is a growing market. I don’t think ordinary solicitors will be able to help.

Can you not complain again to your university using the new evidence? They will probably not look at your complaint but then you can ask the OIA to review whether they were right not to look at it. They may have to.

I personally would just ask an expert solicitor (I stress expert as you need to know the right answer) to see if you have a case and pay for it yourself. I don’t think “no win no fee” is used in this area as cases are very specific and require a lot of investigating before a solicitor will know if you have a case. Quotes I had for looking to see if I had a case were around £400 - £800, but even if you don’t have a case, it gives you closure. I would recommend travelling to the right solicitor as well.

You’re right, the assistant adjudicators are meant to make the decision on a complaint entirely independently but I’m pretty sure they follow set procedures. Who sets the procedures??? That’s what I would like to know
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D001
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#53
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#53
Also, have you thought about seeing if you have a case against your solicitor for not spotting the Judicial Review deadline?
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alma mater
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#54
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To be honest D001 it is not my specific case that matters to me most any more. What matters to me most now is exposing the OIA for the disgraceful, deceitful sham that it is. This is going to take a long time, but I will never give up. The OIA are not behaving in a fair way and students now and in the future deserve to know this. Taking a case to the OIA is time-consuming and stressful, and at the moment almost entirely pointless for students. Students need to know up front that they are wasting their time, and then the OIA will be put out of action. If students know there is absolutely no point appealing to the OIA then the OIA will cease to exist and this will be a win win situation for students: they will save money and they will save time, effort and sweat. If students have got a grievance against their university then I would suggest by-passing the OIA completely, and if they can afford it going for expert legal advice instead.
In this world money talks and you get justice if you can afford to pay for it, and you don't get justice if you can't afford to pay for it. Ombudsmen organisations exist to fool people into believing that they can get justice on the cheap - sadly, it is just a cynical illusion..
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alma mater
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#55
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#55
The reason the OIA find against students in 96 out of every 100 cases is that the establishment almost always looks after the establishment. The OIA has to find in favour of students 4 per cent of the time so that it does not look too implausibly rigged. 4 per cent- ish is the prescribed target that the OIA achieves every year. What is the chance of this occurring by chance? The rich and the powerful look after the rich and the powerful, and most students are neither rich nor powerful. If they are they will win their case. It's like the Grenfell Tower disaster, the residents rightly don't trust elite establishment judges to look fairly at the issues. If you look at ANY enquiry carried out by the establishment against the establishment, there is always, always an establishment cover-up and stitch-up of the poor and the powerless. I challenge anyone to think of a case where this has not happened. The OIA are doing what the establishment has always done and always will do.
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HarrietJones
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#56
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#56
(Original post by alma mater)
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.
I don't think I will bother with the OIA, my appeal has been upheld and I am waiting to hear the results of my internal complaint. I have messaged you regarding OIA but I am pretty convinced not to go down that route! 19 months - what an absolute joke!
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alma mater
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#57
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#57
Thanks for your post Harriet. Hope your internal complaint goes in your favour. I would strongly urge any student to avoid the OIA like the plague. They feed off student misery and student debt, like parasites, and the best way to get rid of them is to starve them of their funds - that is money from student tuition fees. If students realise that complaining to the OIA is not only pointless, but it is costing them money, then they will stop going to the OIA, and this noxious organisation will then have no money and it will cease to exist. The world will be a much better place without them.
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Swanson1
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#58
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(Original post by alma mater)
Is the office of the independent adjudicator (OIA) completely unfit for purpose?
I am currently dealing with the OIA after I made a complaint regarding an academic misconduct allegation. There were an array of regulatory failures from the university and I have argued that the original allegation should have been disregarded which was ignored and not investigated by the university.

Currently I am in a situation where the university has been asked for information and it states on the complaints tracker that the university has responded on the final day of the deadline and the day after the OIA has had correspondence with the university. However I do not know what any of this correspondence was and was under the impression I should have been informed of any correspondence from the university to the OIA and vice versa. I sent my case handler an email yesterday seeking clarification into the matter, but nothing as yet.

It would be great to hear some feedback or advice!

Thanks
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alma mater
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#59
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#59
Hi Swanson 1

The OIA has a duty to share all correspondence with you.

My advice to you is don't just wait for the OIA to complete their 'investigation'; you should also conduct your own investigation in parallel. Use the FOIA and the DPA to get as much information as you can from your university. In brief, don't trust the OIA to do a fair and proper job. Also bear in mind that when you receive the decision from the OIA, you only have 28 days to request that they reopen your case if you disagree with it, and you only have three months to apply for judicial review.
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Swanson1
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#60
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(Original post by alma mater)
Hi Swanson 1

The OIA has a duty to share all correspondence with you.

My advice to you is don't just wait for the OIA to complete their 'investigation'; you should also conduct your own investigation in parallel. Use the FOIA and the DPA to get as much information as you can from your university. In brief, don't trust the OIA to do a fair and proper job. Also bear in mind that when you receive the decision from the OIA, you only have 28 days to request that they reopen your case if you disagree with it, and you only have three months to apply for judicial review.
Hi Alma Mater,

Thanks for the response, I received the universities response from the OIA today. However it is missing many of the correspondence I shared with the university which is interesting. With that said I have kept all of these emails regardless but It was my understanding that all correspondence should have been shared from the provider to the OIA. Are you suggesting approach the university directly and reference the FOIA and DPA acts?

Yes thanks for the information on that deadline, I will make sure I don't miss it!
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