Surge in complaints at UK unis driven by int’l and PG students

 In News

Problems with visas and other issues unique to international students could be behind the hike in these grievances, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) suggested.

Some 3,137 complaints were logged by the OIA in 2023, up from 2,850 in 2022 – continuing a steady trend of increasing numbers of complaints year-on-year since 2017, according to the watchdog’s 2023 annual report.

“Complaints from international students rose to their highest level yet in 2023, with around 90% of those coming from non-EU students,” said OIA student liaison officer Barry McHale, presenting the figures at the UCKISA conference 2024.

“The sharpest rise in complaints from non-EU students was at postgraduate level, making up just over half of all complaints received at that level of study.”

While 60% of complaints were logged by home students in 2023, two thirds (36%) were made by non-EU students according to the report, which was published last month.

It noted that 2023 saw a significant increase – nine percentage points – in complaints from non-EU students compared to 2022, when issues reported by this cohort made up 27% of the total despite them making up roughly 19% of the the student body in England and Wales.

Complaints from postgraduate students accounted for 41% of the total, and just over half of these were made by international students, the report said.

It highlighted that the number of complaints from postgraduate and PHD students – the latter group having made 7% of complaints in 2023 – was markedly large for their proportion of the total student cohort.

There’s that pressure not to let down those who have supported [international students] financially.

Barry McHale, OIA

McHale suggested that a number of factors could be behind these trends.

“From an OIA perspective, we understand they’re affected by lots of the same issues, if not all of the same issues, as the home students are affected by. But they’re disproportionately affected, in many cases, by those issues, and they also face issues that only international students are affected by,” he told UKCISA delegates at the University of Kent.

This included changes in the political climate either in the UK or in students’ home countries, as well as difficulties with visas, international conflicts or “currency crashes”, he explained.

“There’s lots of pressure for students to succeed, as well. We know that they make a huge personal financial commitment in many cases and I think there’s that pressure not to let down those who have supported them financially. This could be [through] family savings, sometimes even on the back of a village or a whole community,” he added.

Academic complaints represented the largest proportion of complaints in 2023, at 45%. This was followed by service complaints, such as dissatisfaction with the number of contact hours or quality of academic course, at 34%.

Some 6% of complaints were to do with financial issues and 4% related to academic disciplinary measures.

The report noted that students on business and management courses “consistently” log more reports with the OIA, accounting for 598 of the 3,137 complaints from 2023.

The OIA suggested this was “likely to be related to a high concentration of international postgraduate students studying in this area”.

The post Surge in complaints at UK unis driven by int’l and PG students appeared first on The PIE News.

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