22 diciembre, 2010

¿Deben las universidades indemnizar a los estudiantes si la enseñanza es mala?

Parece broma, pero ya se está hablando con seriedad en algunas partes. Miren este reportaje del periódico inglés The Guardian que me envió un amigo el otro día.

Bien pensado, y como ahí se dice, si uno compra un aparato o un servicio y sale malo, el comercio debe devolver el importe o, si se han causado daños, hubo mala fe, no se dio la prestación comprometida o se engañó en la calidad del bien, etc., etc., se siguen consecuencias jurídicas en forma de compensaciones, reparaciones, sanciones, etc. ¿Por qué no en la universidad?

En la información a la que me refiero y que ustedes pueden ver, se habla de que un estudiante ha pagado una matrícula -allá más alta- a cambio de que le den unas clases -y se las den todas-, lo atiendan en las tutorías, se pongan las calificaciones en su tiempo... Y a cambio, también, de que lo enseñado tenga la calidad que se requiere y se le supone. ¿Y cuando todo eso se incumple?

Lean ustedes mismos y reflexionemos todos. Pinchen aquí o, miren más abajo, pues lo copio:

Can you get a refund if university fails to deliver?

Increased tuition fees are likely to result in more students claiming compensation when courses are not up to standard

Courses that are sub-standard, lecturers who don't turn up, supervision that doesn't materialise ... now that students will be paying up to £9,000 a year, will they be able to demand their money back if university fails to deliver?
If a product doesn't live up to expectations, if it's not of merchantable quality, then consumers have rights to ask for their money back under the Sale of Goods Act. But what if you are paying for a course that didn't live up to expectations? Already, officials in the university sector are preparing for an increase in complaints from heavily-indebted consumers of education who feel they didn't get what was promised.
First, it's important to remember that students are not buying a degree. They pay for services and facilities (tuition, libraries) which enable them to study and complete a course to the best of their ability. But if these services are lacking or inadequate, then surely they deserve compensation?
If difficulties are apparent in a degree course (for example, absentee supervisors or sub-standard pastoral care) then a university's internal complaints procedure should be the first stop. These tribunals were once notorious for their casual attitude to correct legal procedure. They still don't like paying compensation and proceed slowly even with urgent matters – such as disputed marks – important when a job hinges on the outcome.
In England and Wales, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), can intervene when internal appeals have been exhausted. Interestingly, the OIA's own research suggests that dissatisfied students don't want cash, but, rather, a fair and independent system of restitution. Rob Behrens, the Independent Adjudicator, emphasises that complaints are still rare. He aims to rectify a situation, but where it is too late (such as when complained-about supervisors have left) he can require the university to pay compensation.
Pay-outs are usually modest: for example, £300 to a student who did not receive an essential CD Rom, and the largest so far - £45,000 to a student involved in a damaging, complex, and protracted dispute about a PhD. Behrens emphasises that students have a right to appropriate service and deals with instances of: "…delays, distress, legal fees and loss of earnings, and only if there is evidence – we are not in the business of giving handouts".
He says the OIA rarely sees vexatious actions, and upholds roughly a quarter of all complaints.
Most likely to complain are mature students and post-graduates, who have probably worked outside academia. Also over-represented are overseas students, who pay higher fees, and have uprooted their lives to study. Vocational degrees such as medicine feature heavily, possibly because a student's entire career is at stake.
Behrens emphasises his independence, but is concerned that embattled universities might make "extravagant promises", especially to attract lucrative international applicants. He believes that if the Brown Review (which emphasises students are consumers) is adopted, complaints will increase.
While disputes are usually settled before reaching court (indeed, legal action is allowed only if internal procedures have been exhausted) some students have sued their university. In 2002, a mature law student, Mike Austin, was awarded £30,000 by the University of Wolverhampton in an out of court settlement. His catalogue of grievances include crowded lecture halls, poorly drafted exams papers and inflated promises.
Lower-than-expected marks usually ruin plans for further study, which might have prompted Andrew Croskery to sue Queen's University, Belfast. The electrical engineering student was awarded a 2.2 instead of an expected 2.1, and this September he applied for a judicial review citing poor supervision of his studies (a 2.1 is usually required for a place on masters courses.)
The NUS has yet to see an onslaught of litigation for damages, but accepts that students will become more demanding when fees increase. President Aaron Porter told us: "Students must have more power to hold their institutions to account. Institutions must be required to repay fees to students where there is poor quality in delivery or promises not kept. They must face genuine penalties where malpractice and misadministration occur."
So the rule is this: if you have suffered severe problems with your course, first try your university's internal complaints procedure, which might ultimately offer financial reparations. If all else fails, English and Welsh students can seek redress with the OIA, or increasingly, the courts. After all, you're going to pay as much as £9,000 a year for your education.
Office of the Independent Adjudicator: http://www.oiahe.org.uk/

Advice from a refund evangelist
I am a refund evangelist. But to be successful in the art of getting your money back, it is essential to show neither shame nor embarrassment. A friend returned a designer vibrator to the point of purchase – not because this expensive item didn't have, well, the desired effect, but because the mechanism broke. She spent some time walking up and down the pavement summoning the nerve to ask (successfully) for a refund.
And what about "alternative" therapies like homeopathic medicines? If, somewhat inevitably, they don't work, who do you approach: the prescribing dispenser, or the manufacturer?
Sylvia Rook, principal training officer of the Trading Standards Institute, says the answer is the point of sale: "There are obviously a number of items where consumers may be embarrassed to pursue a refund or where it may be difficult to show that the trader has not used reasonable care and skill. That should not, however, deter the consumer from making a claim if they feel their rights have been breached."
Persistence is a virtue. I once returned some expensive boots which had begun to leak after just a few months. The shop said I had worn them (imagine that) but eventually, after much arguing, I was granted a replacement.
Sylvia Rook says: "When consumers buy goods, they have rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. Goods should be of satisfactory quality, fit for their purpose and as described. If they are not, and the consumer has not 'accepted' the goods then the consumer is entitled to his or her money back."

8 comentarios:

un amigo dijo...

Lleva años maravillándome que la mejor manera para poner patas arriba las propuestas políticas de los "partidarios del mercado" consista simplemente en ... aplicar las reglas del mercado. Pero todas, no sólo las que a ellos les convienen.


Anónimo dijo...

No tan broma. La enseñanza es un bien que consumo como puedo consumir un secador para alisar mi pelo. Si no me lo deja perfecto para ligar la noche del sábado perfecto me enfado...¿mi educación es menor importante que el alisado de mi pelo? ¿ústed cree? Todo lo contrario, tiene mucha mayor transcendencia en mi vida , mayor transcendencia que el alisado de mi pelo que me ha de dar mi secador para conseguir ligar la noche de sábado. ¿o no?

Lopera in the nest dijo...

¿Deben las salas de cine devolverme el dinero de la entrada si no me ha gustado la película?.

Anónimo dijo...

Eso, eso, reglas de mercado. Tiene mi voto, "un amigo". Empezando por descastar la patulea de empleados universitarios -que no sobrevivirían fuera de ese palacio dorado- siguiendo por exigir que los propios demandantes de educación aporten de su parte lo que les corresponde, pasando por sacar a los políticos y terminando por cerrar los centros más ineficientes.

Anónimo dijo...

La idea es atractiva. Sin embargo, hasta un mismo alisador de pelo dará resultados distintos en quien lo tenga naturalmente muy ensortijado de aquel apenas ondulado. A lo que voy, esto de la responsabilidad por los servicios es de antigua data: responsabilidad por los medios o por los resultados. Si la película no me gustó como dice Lopera puedo solictar indemnización?? Bueno, quizás. Si la distribudora me anuncia efectos especiales o una historia de amor y no hay nada de ello es claro que he sido víctima de un fraude. La universidad no puede ofrecer aprender sino enseñar. Para ello debe disponer de todos los medios disponibles o necesarios: clases, tutorías, seminarios, bibliotecas, laboratorios, etc. Si no hay ello, no hay los medios, habrá responsabilidad, pero si el bellaco no llega a aprenderse la lección a pesar de los medios puestos a su disposiión entonces que se vaya con su pelo a otro lado. Distinto es el caso de la Universidad, pública o privada, que no dispone de los medios o que estos no tienen la calidad suficiente: malos profesores, pésimas biblioecas, etc., por lo que sí cabría imputar responsabilidad.

Anónimo dijo...

Lopera, se ha quedado usted a gusto con su comentario, ¿verdad?. O no ha estudiado nunca, o ha olvidado lo que era su vida cuando estudiaba, o es que ha conseguido una plaza en una universidad pública donde "tiene la obligación" de asistir a todas sus clases, presentar un temario normalizado, o que decir de las tutorías que "ningún" alumno cree necesarias. Indignante. Comparar la educación con la ficción me parece una necedad.

Lopera in the nest dijo...

No me he quedado a gusto con mi comentario.
Sí he estudiado una Licenciatura.
No he olvidado lo que era mi vida cuando era estudiante.
Sí he conseguido una plaza en una universidad.
Sí tengo la obligación de asistir a todas mis clases.
Mis alumnos, algunos de ellos, consideran necesarias la tutorias.
Comparar la ficción con lo que intento enseñar, en mi opionión no es una necedad. Pero quizás sea la opinión de un necio.

Anónimo dijo...

Rectifico mi comentario anterior, pues no es necedad el termino correcto para lo que queria expresar. Creo que es más bien atrevimiento. Por lo que me comenta tiene razones para ser atrevido. Me alegro por usted que ha recibido una educación correcta, que trabaja en una universidad que le obliga a cumplir con sus funciones, y que sus alumnos puedan disfrutar de sus tutorías. Vaya, es cierto, ahora que lo pienso mejor, hablar de ficción no me parece tan descabellado. Un cordial saludo.