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The Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005 includes provisions to extend the remit of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to include further and higher educational establishments. The Open University is not included, however, because, as a United Kingdom institution with its main base in England, it falls under UK-wide procedures. Complaints regarding the Open University can be referred to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.
It seems to be an unfortunate anomaly that students who are based in Scotland and studying with the OU, which is a university that is registered in Scotland, do not have the same route for complaints as students at other Scottish universities. Will the minister undertake to explore bringing the OU into line with all the other universities that are registered in Scotland?
Anyone who has a complaint against the Open University, or any other institution for that matter, should exhaust the internal procedures for that institution. I note my colleague’s concern about the Open University’s position and I understand where he is coming from. However, the Open University is unique and its membership of the scheme that is run by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education provides students with a consistent experience and helps to avoid a situation in which students could be treated differently simply due to where they live. We have to take that issue into account, but I note the member’s concerns.