Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 109

Submission from Trevor Mayes


  My evidence is based upon my appalling experience at the University of Wales Lampeter as a mature student in 2002-03. I have two professional qualifications with 16 years experience in social work, and to my cost got myself involved in an argument in defence of the disadvantaged. In return for doing what I considered to be a public duty I was falsely accused of plagiarism, intimidated during an examination and falsely accused of malicious harassment.

Using my life experience and professional training, I have for the last six years attempted to seek a remedy for a situation that the University of Wales Lampeter considered routine and that an expert has informed me is a typical case. I have used all conceivable means of seeking a remedy but while procedures are in place, there is no regulatory body to ensure that they are complied with.

  Here is a summary of the main issues.

    — Academic independence used to hide maladministration and financial irregularities.

    — No jurisdiction for the financial regulators the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to intervene in financial mismanagement, despite claims to the contrary. The disregard demonstrated by HEFCW for its statutory duties has led to a situation whereby unlike its English counterpart HEFCE it will be the Charity Commission that will undertake the role of regulator for Welsh Universities under the Charity Act 2006.

    — No brief Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to intervene in institutionalised abuse, and quote have "no locus in these matters". Despite claims its job is to reassure the public about standards in higher education.

    — The failure of the Welsh Assembly to implement the Higher Education Act 2004.

    — The Visitor and OIA replacing the courts without the same safeguards for what is a course of public justice for students.

    — The connection with the Church in Wales that is more concerned with politics than religion, to the point whereby its charitable status is now in question.

    — The refusal of the University of Wales to implement any complaints procedures.

    — No right of any complaint to University auditors concerning financial irregularity.

    — The removal of the power of intervention by the Auditor General under the Local Government Act 2000 by the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004.

    — Failure of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 to offer any protection to student whistleblowers.

    — Secrecy concerning student complaints and offending universities.


  1.  A combination of the above factors has led to a situation whereby the truth about what really goes on inside our Universities is kept from the public domain. Positive change resulting from any form of wrongdoing or structural failure can only take place if the public knows what is going on. Unlike other forms of public service there is no public accountability, consultation, or inquiry of what went wrong at the University of Wales Lampeter.

  2.  Given recent much publicised criticisms of public services, the public are being misled into thinking that higher education institutions are regulated according to the public's understanding of the concept. The fact is that these institutions are accountable to nobody and the old adage that power tends to corrupt is true, as these institutions have been corrupted by absolute power.

  3.  I have been advised by an expert on the management of universities that the only way to bring this sort of maladministration to light is by publishing it in a newspaper or journal. While this has happened and the QAA have made criticisms of Lampeter based upon my complaints it does not tell the true or whole story

  4.  Together with this false perception of regulation, the public like to think that our universities are beyond reproach and they must know best. Therefore, it is impossible for any student to get any story published, as they are not going to be believed. There is of course publishing to the internet and having done that I was subjected to threats of legal action and a high court injunction from both the University of Wales Lampeter and the Federal University of Wales to conceal maladministration, gross misconduct, perverting the students' complaints procedures and financial irregularities etc. This use of public money to conceal your own corruption is a nice perk if you can get it, unfortunately we are all banned from complaining about it.

  5.  Having failed to silence me that way I am now subject to being discredited over the Internet on certain sites that have a connection with the University of Wales or a Welsh University. While technically this may be a breach of the Public Order Act and libellous, I cannot take action as nobody is going to believe me in the first place. Therefore, the lack of regulation leads to a situation whereby these issues pervade the Internet without being resolved to the detriment of all concerned.

  6.  The introduction of tuition fees and student loans with additional help for the disadvantaged has opened up access to higher education for those who would have otherwise been subjected to the social class gatekeeper system, whereby mainly middle and upper class students gained entry to university. I suggest that the reported 75% drop out rate for this category is down to the Universities of finding some way of getting rid of those who are not wanted or who complain.

  7.  What better way of doing this than a fabricated accusation of plagiarism, after all Universities UK held a week long conference of this very important issue. Once an accusation of cheating has been made, then students can say goodbye to their career and university education for nobody is going to believe that the university has got it wrong let alone fabricated the results. That is why I have attached evidence of how anti plagiarism software is being used by universities to discredit students who complain or who they want to get rid of, safe in the knowledge all they need to do is tell lies as nobody is going to question their academic judgement; least of all the regulators.

  8.  The suggestion by Gordon Brown for mature professionals to return to university to top up their qualifications with a degree needs to be carefully considered and accommodation. The admissions and induction of mature students with professional qualifications and life experience needs to be treated with due respect. Single parents or those with family commitments and specifically women who are the main managers of the home must also be shown due consideration. This does not mean preferential treatment but the institutionalised practice of making life difficult must stop. At Lampeter, I witnessed the deliberate setting of unrealistic time scales for the completion of assignments to make life difficult for the above disadvantaged groups.

  9.  The Students Complaints Scheme under the Higher Education Act 2004 not only requires an independent adjudicator it also needs to be regulated to prevent maladministration, perversion and obstruction by those responsible for its implementation and management. Universities should not be able to simply make up the rules as they go along, make false accusations, add extra requirements or tell lies concerning compliance to protect themselves from liability.

  10.  Legal loopholes in the Higher Education Act 2004 need to be closed, the findings of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) must be made binding and penalties for perverting what is a public course of justice must be introduced. Moreover, the regulators must guard against Universities carrying out any act of retribution such as marking down assignments against students who complain.

  11.  The Federal University of Wales must be required to comply with the requirements of the Higher Education Act 2004, HEFCW guidelines for HEI's and the Nolan Committee to implement complaint procedures for students and the public to use. I have written to the HM Queen as Visitor but as her duties have been taken over by the OIA she cannot intervene. The OIA cannot intervene as they have no complaints procedures, this not only guarantees an unblemished record it also obstructs my legal right to pursue the matter with the OIA. HM the Queen has however, written to the first Minister of the Welsh Assembly on this issue, his response was to place her letter on file as it said nothing new. I have also written to the Chancellor HRH the Prince of Wales but unfortunately he cannot get involved in personal issues, quite how the failure of the University of Wales to comply with the law is a personal issue is something he failed to explain.

  12.  The OIA is itself not wholly independent being four fifths owned by the Universities and does not meet the standards set by other independent organisations such as the Charity Commission. Having said that I do not wish to discredit any good work they have done and my comments should be seen as ways the OIA could be improved and other models of independence should be adopted to improve the image of impartiality.

  13.  Whistle blowing, legal loopholes and failure to comply with the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The Act with regard to trainees under section 47k is flawed as it applies to nobody. Moreover, the law needs to change to include students blowing the whistle on these sorts of issues, and Universities such as Lampeter must be made to comply with the law by having a policy for public display.

  14.  The market dominance of legal giant Eversheds in representing around 100 of the 133 or so universities in England and Wales should be referred to the Office of Fair Trading. In my opinion, it acts against the interests of students as consumers as it may have lead to a culture of bullying to prevent complaints being made to the OIA. Moreover, it may also serve to prevent what academia fears most and that is the introduction of OFSTED style inspections the loss of academic independence and state run education. However, my concerns are more to do with accountability and whatever regulation it takes to stop this from happening to anyone else.

  15.  Eversheds were instrumental in setting up the OIA which may account for the procedure of requiring a "Letter of Completion" stating that the students complaints procedures were fully complied with. Although Lampeter produced such a letter that was a blatant pack of lies with impunity in the knowledge that Eversheds would threaten legal action to keep this fact from being made public. That leads to the fact that unlike its Scottish counterpart the OIA has not as yet named and shamed English and Welsh Universities. It has also lead to the belief that the OIA is a panacea for all complaints whereas in fact its criteria make any complaint of this nature extremely difficult.

  16.  The University of Wales Lampeter is a failed institution and in keeping with recent comments from government ministers on these sorts of issues the public have a right to know why things went wrong, and that the people should be held accountable for their failings. This should apply to Lampeter before any merger with Trinity University College Carmarthen goes ahead to avoid a repetition of the same mistakes. Were the University of Wales Lampeter a school, a FE College or Social Services Department it would have been taken over, a police investigation would have been carried out and those responsible for this sort of corporate incompetence and maladministration would be summarily sacked.

  17.  The Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 that took away the power of the Auditor General for Wales to intervene in an HEI with regard to financial mismanagement under the Local Government Act 2000 should be repealed. New legislation should prevent the fraudulent use of public funds to pay solicitors to threaten students with legal action in order to conceal individual and corporate maladministration, contrary to the Company Act 2005 and relevant Charity Acts. Clearly, this relates to staff and officers of a university telling lies with regard to compliance with procedures so they can then come under the protection of the university and receive free legal assistance to conceal their own corruption. Moreover, I have evidence that University Councils or the Audit Committee are deliberately lied to by officers obtain funding to defend legal action or a tribunal to conceal maladministration. As the law stands, there is nothing to stop this blatant act of fraud from happening or hold the offenders to account.

  18.  The role of the Church in Wales regarding the governance of Higher Education Institutions and its involvement in political activity needs to be reviewed. The involvement of the Archbishop of Wales in the political pressure group Tomorrows Wales to change the way we are governed is not illegal. The issue is that political activity is not a charitable purpose, and should such a political pressure group be involved in the management of any form of education, which demands 100% compliance with charity law. Politics was in my opinion one of the reasons why the then Visitor to the University of Wales Lampeter Carl Cooper dismissed my complaint after three years of pressure, which included the absurd act of taking out a claim against him in the county court for Malfeasance in Public Office to force him to hear my complaint. Many people like myself feel very strongly that as we are a secular country the Church should stay out of politics.

  19.  Going to university is a very big undertaking and given the structural disadvantage students face with regard to any redress for being victimised, or subject to predatory behaviour, they should be designated as "vulnerable consumers" for a variety of reasons. The main one being that the average student leaves university with an average debt is around £15,000 this in itself is a big inducement not to rock the boat in the knowledge of ending up with a large debt for nothing. Moreover, it is quite common for students to owe their university in excess of £750, what is frightening is the use of threats of bankruptcy or financial inducement by universities to conceal maladministration. In this situation a student cannot make a counterclaim as the courts will not deal with any issue that comes under the remit of the OIA and the required undertaking by the student not to repeat any allegations in return their "reasonable offer" would rule out any future claim being made.

  20.  University Councils, its members and officers should be introduced to the concept of public accountability in accordance with the 7 principles of public life, guidelines issued by the Funding Councils and the Committee of University Chairmen. The University of Wales Lampeter is a case whereby the University Council does not work as they do not know what their duties are or pass the buck to avoid taking any form of action. The supervisory role of Council lay members does not work if only because they cannot rely on officers to tell them the truth.

  21.  The suicide risk to students where there is institutionalised abuse, serial bullying and blatant concealment of maladministration by university officers and council is unacceptably high. It is common knowledge that such tragic actions are more likely when the rules and procedures are perverted, lies are told, evidence fabricated and destroyed, the complainant is subjected to character assassination, threats are made, legitimate concerns are dismissed as wild allegations and any form of investigation is obstructed by those in authority.

  22.  There was an inquiry carried out a few years ago that concluded the student suicide rate was average for the population, what I did not see was an assessment of the risk as required by any health and safety issue. Common sense tells us that as Universities are social institutions and that students have a purpose in life, it puts them in a low risk environment and group, therefore an average suicide rate would suggests that it is too high.

  23.  The former head of the OIA Baroness Deech said that Universities have no sense of natural justice, various newspaper articles have reinforced this view, which maybe partly responsible for the "radicalisation" of vulnerable students as there is no lawful remedy to the issues that I have raised from my personal experience. Following the recent raids under the anti terrorism act and the connection with John Moores University in Liverpool my information website has received a number of visitors using the search term "Lampeter Terrorists", clearly there are a number of people asking the same question.

  24.  For all the above reasons we need for a University Commissioner to oversee a network of university ombudsman to protect students as vulnerable consumers, ensure universities play it by the rules, and that the overall reputation of our universities is not damaged by the events at the University of Wales Lampeter.

  25.  Please see

  Appendices I,[383] a fabricated allegation of plagiarism of 25% generated by Eve 2.4. Appendix II383 Page 1 of a fabricated allegation of plagiarism of 19% generated by Eve 2.3 a different version of the same software four minutes earlier. It took a three year battle to obtain evidence of their allegation.

  Appendix III383 the correct result which demonstrates that the software is inaccurate and with the removal of the inaccuracies of a quote and title removed the plagiarism is zero.

May 2009

383   Not published. Back

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