A source of upliftment for those of us who have huge interest and deep concern for wellbeing within UK tertiary education is an article published by Wonkhe 24 April 2023 entitled Even in turbulent times the OIA can practise kindness in adjudicating complaints. Written by Felicity Mitchell, she shares reflections on her 19 years of work in the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). This is the independent student complaints scheme for England and Wales and it reviews unresolved complaints from students about their higher education provider.
She states how if she were asked to identify one thing she is most proud of, it is the positive move to “embrace a kinder approach in all aspects of our work”. At the beginning of 2022, the OIA adopted its ‘Commitment to Kindness’ to help embed specified behaviours and practices, including listening and understanding across its entire organisation.
This focus on kindness has become of increasing importance. The OIA continues to see so many students experiencing mental health issues: some that lead to the registration of a complaint, and some that are brought about by the complaint process itself. It isn’t a new problem, but it is definitely escalating, and it is so reassuring to learn that the OIA seeks its solutions and bases its forward strategy on constantly reaffirming KINDNESS as its values’ yardstick.
Moreover, the OIA’s most up-to-date statistics in dealing with complaints are impressive. Proof that kindness isn’t just about the ‘feel good’ factor, but also translates as improved efficacy in the workplace.
The Caring on Campus initiative is also starting to gain traction and you can connect with LifeRoute if you are interested. What we need, and what the OIA article affirms, are similar Commitments to Kindness across every HEIs and for these to be inclusive of everyone: from teachers to students, from vice-chancellors to cleaners.