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Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education

Under the Higher Education Act 2004 the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) has been designated the body responsible for dealing with student complaints. The purpose of the Act was to create a system under which students at higher education institutions could take complaints quickly and with a minimum of expense to a central body for consideration by people with experience of the world of higher education in order to obtain a speedy decision on the merits of their grievances and, where necessary, an appropriate solution without the need to resort to formal proceedings, whether within the institutions themselves or through the courts.

Although the OIA is subject to judicial review it does not follow that the procedures and decisions of the OIA are to be treated as if it were a judicial body or that every complaint must be investigated in the same way. The nature and seriousness of complaints referred to the OIA is likely to vary widely and is therefore likely to call for a variety of different approaches.

The Court of Appeal was unable to accept that in every case the OIA is bound to examine the underlying merits of a dispute and cannot properly limit itself to a review of the decision which has given rise to the complaint. ‘It is for the OIA in each case to decide the nature and extent of the investigation required having regard to the nature of the particular complaint and on any application for judicial review the court should recognise the expertise of the OIA and is likely to be slow to accept that its choice of procedure was improper. Similarly, I should not expect the court to be easily persuaded that its decision and any consequent recommendation was unsustainable in law.’

Per Moore-Bick LJ in Siborurema, R (on the application of) v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2007] EWCA Civ 1365.


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