Now is the age

In the current economic climate, higher education faces formidable pressures to restructure itself and cut costs. Inevitably its role and its institutional practices face criticism by policymakers and sections of the media. Recently, such criticisms have often taken the form of publicising students’ complaints to call into question the legitimacy of the academy’s institutional practices. Although the number of these complaints is tiny (900 in England and Wales in 2008) and the number upheld is smaller still (just 63), there is a growing perception of an explosion of student grievances. Newspapers and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) continually point out that the numbers are rising. Complaints are rarely conveyed as just that, complaints, but are presented as markers of institutional failure.