The Guardian today [20/04/2023] reported on the increasing numbers of complaints made by university students to the Higher Education watchdog, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. This increase in complaints is reflected in the number of clients approaching us for help to assist them. Usually they need advice and assistance with navigating higher education disciplinary processes, and preparing & submitting complaints to the OIA about processes, outcomes, tuition fee refunds and levels of support provided.

We have also seen an increase in the number of sexual misconduct investigations conducted internally by institutions. These are often conducted poorly with lack of due process, resulting in unfavorable outcomes for the students involved. Outcomes which we have then successfully appealed to the OIA.

Institutional processes should be drafted with clarity and in accordance with guidance such as the OIA’s “Good Practice Framework” and Universities UK’s “Guidance for Higher Education Institutions”. More often than not, however, they are opaque. Institutions regularly fail to apply them properly, leaving themselves open to successful challenges.

Getting advice and assistance early in the process is crucial to obtaining a successful outcome quickly and may save time and money in the long run.

Case Study: Expelled from University

I recently assisted a university student who had been expelled from Derby University following an allegation of sexual misconduct. Through careful investigation and preparation, I was able to demonstrate to the OIA that my client was, in fact, the victim of the misconduct and his expulsion was overturned.

Case Study: Accused of Sexual Assault by University

I also successfully defended a University Student accused of sexual assault by penetration. In this case, as the matter was brought to us early in the proceedings, my pro-active pre-charge work brought this allegation to a swift conclusion in what might otherwise have been a protracted and costly process.

The parents provided this feedback:

“Could we please take this opportunity to send you our sincere thanks for your excellent work. It is difficult to explain the huge change in M following our first meeting with you. He finally had a chance to be listened to and be understood and you gave him a lifeline when he couldn’t see a future for himself. Your positive no-nonsense attitude was a tonic for us all. We appreciate the way you kept us informed, explained everything clearly and kept up the communication with the PC on the case. M has a new confidence and positivity for which we are very grateful”

Higher Education Disciplinary Solicitor

Stuart MatthewsStuart Matthews is a Senior Solicitor and Founding Partner of Reeds. He is recognized as a ‘Leading Individual’ in the Legal 500, who recognizes his ability to “deliver realistic advice based on good judgment in private crime and protest work”. He has experience in handling student misconduct and university disciplinary hearing matters. If you would like more information on how Stuart and the team can help with university issues, then please visit our service page here.

As with many legal or disciplinary issues, obtaining legal advice at an early stage in university disputes is crucial. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your situation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at