The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education have issued a briefing note, in which they encourage students to make formal complaints in order to secure compensation for disruption caused by the recent UCU strikes.
The impact of the strike action has varied by course and university. Whilst some students have missed only one or two scheduled sessions, others have had this semester entirely disrupted.
However, you should be eligible for some compensation even if you were not significantly affected. See below for how to start this process.
The Independent Adjudicator have detailed some of the factors they will consider when awarding compensation, including “the potential difference in value of final year teaching compared to first year teaching.”
The University of Manchester lies to its students
The breifing note issued is in stark contrast to a statement offered by University of Manchester (UoM) spokesperson Michael Greenhalgh before the Easter break, in which the university played dumb about their obligations regarding compensation.
Michael told students in March it would be “virtually impossible” to calculate compensation for missed teaching. However, the Independent Adjudicator awards compensation from universities (including UoM!) to thousands of students each year, and confirm in their briefing note that many of these are about teaching that has not been delivered.
This leaves two possible conclusions.
1 – UoM’s management, when drafting their response to demands for compensation and claiming it was “virtually impossible” to calculate, were so incompetent they did not know that compensation is calculated on a regular basis.
2 – UoM’s management feigned ignorance of this process with the scandalous intent of hushing student complaints.
How to claim compensation via the Independent Adjudicator
Students can bring complaints to the Adjudicator totally free of charge, and unlike predatory law firms promising to secure compensation on a “no-win-no-fee” (read: commision!) basis, nobody will take a cut of any compensation.
The Adjudicator also has the advantage of interpreting the legal terms of relevant contracts “in a broader context than the strict legal principles the Courts have to apply,” in order to decide whether a university has acted “fairly.”
Note: This process is largely the same at every university, though the steps below specifically discuss UoM’s procedures. Google is your friend.
- Students must bring a complaint to the university, such that the university has a chance to resolve it themselves. For UoM, use the complaint form here. You will need to set out what you want from the university in order to resolve your complaint, this will be an amount of compensation you must initially decide yourself. It’s a negotiation process, so start high.UoM publish a “basic guide to student complaints” which makes the process fairly easy to understand, and if you’re feeling brave you can take on the full fat “Complaints Procedure (Student) (Regulation XVIII)” and see what you make of it. The students union also have their own guide to the complaint process.
- Your complaint will progress through various stages of management, and at each stage, the university may make you an offer, which you can choose to accept or decline.
- If you decline the university’s offer at each stage, you will be given a deadlock letter, known as a “completion of procedures” letter. This is required to take your complaint to the adjudicator.
- Fill out the Independent Adjudicator’s handy online complaint form, and upload your “completion of procedures” letter.
Masters students have seen their courses decimated
The briefing note bodes well for many Masters students who claim their course has been “ruined” by the effects of strike action. With most Masters students only studying for one year, this would have consisted of just two 10 week semesters, followed by a dissertation.
Whilst seminars have taken place as normal either side of the strike action, the substantial amount of missed teaching has decimated the cumulative learning experience of the semester. Many students have also missed out on a potentially vital ‘Dissertation Research Design’ module, leaving them ill-equipped to complete their dissertations over the summer.
At The University of Manchester, students have been reassured their final grades will be mitigated against the impact of the strike action. On a whole-class basis, module grades will be compared to those in previous years and adjusted accordingly.
Whilst this mitigation is welcomed, it offers no serious recourse for those postgraduate students who feel the learning experience and associated personal development that their courses once promised is forever lost.