I complained to Portsmouth University and they replied on 3rd March 2003, telling me they would reply to me after my complaint had been considered.

They did not reply.

After enquiring repeatedly, I eventually received a letter two years later, in March 2005, to the effect that I needed to have lodged a complaint before August 2003.

Repeated attempts to point out that March 2003 occured before August 2003 have been fruitless.

In his 1984, George Orwell describes a society where people refuse to believe that 2 + 2 = 4. Analogously, here we have people who refuse to believe that March comes earlier in the year than August.

British Universities are exempt from consumer legislation. And until very recently there was no independent ombudsman body to appeal to. The body that exists today does not take on complaints dated from before it existed.

I was working for a research degree at Portsmouth, which was killed stone-dead when certain computer facilities were permanently disabled - . This was just the last in a list of grievances I have concerning the way I was treated by this University.

I asked the Research Office, among other things, whether they had the right to take money from me, given that they had given me no 'Program of Study', i.e. they had not given me a 'contract' telling me what I was going to get for my money.

I was also displeased with the supervisor I was given. He had no experience of supervising research students at all, and has had none up to the present day either.

And finally, the work I was being asked to do contained practically no research and had no chance of being sufficient for a research degree.

The university have acknowledged my letter, and its contents, and told me they would reply to it. I am still waiting today (in 2017) for a reply.

The letter below also contains inaccuracies - there is no recognition that it was impossible to submit a transfer report because the required computing facilities had been withdrawn.

It took me two years to get a "response", and when they did respond they sent me this letter below - from a certain Mike Bateman telling me that I could not get a refund because I had not requested such a refund within 20 days of the end of August 2003 (note the date of the letter above).

pdf version of above letter

Woozle EffectWhat now follows appears to be a classic example of the Woozle effect, whereby frequent citation of previous statements that lack evidence misleads individuals and the public into thinking or believing there is evidence, and non-facts thus become accepted as the truth by these same people. A Woozle is an imaginary character in a Winnie-the-Pooh story. Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet start following tracks left in the snow believing they are the tracks of an imaginary animal called a woozle. The tracks keep multiplying until Christopher Robin explains to them that they have been following their own tracks in circles around a tree.

Latterly, we have other people with funny ideas about the calendar (and here indeed March does occur after August)

Nidham Zahami's calendar

Repeated attempts to take this matter further eventually produced a reply - this letter from a certain Sally Hartley which refers to the previous letter from Bateman and states that all 'discussion' is being shut down - they will not respond to any further correspondence on the matter, a promise they have adhered to without fail.

pdf version of above letter

Below is the one and only communication from Portsmouth to mention the disabling of the Java applets.

It is still a major handicap to me that I have nothing in writing informing me that the applets were been disabled - I can explain the situation but the chances of a third-party (potential employers etc.) believing me implicitly are small. As I write this in 2008, I have been unemployed for six years)

To emphasise the inmportance of Java to my work, you can consult this link

Here are details of the governors of Portsmouth Polytechnic

This is not just a case of getting my £ 3,000 back, it also affects

  1. My search for an alternative course. The default consideration from a third party would be that I ceased at Portsmouth because I was not achieving high enough standards.

  2. Likewise for employment. I have not worked full-time since leaving Portsmouth (apart from one week working as a lecturer at an Open University Summer School) , and unless I get my money back (and am thus able to show that the University was at fault) I don't think I ever will. Something they could do, with longer term benefits for me, would be to send me something in writing stating that they have disabled the said computer facilities.

I would suggest that their reliance on mediaeval regulations is at least partly fuelled by a possible belief that

  • this might open the door to larger compensation payments. Their actions have certainly cost me a hell of a lot more then three thousand pounds.

  • certain external quality assessments might suffer

I was originally tempted down to Portsmouth by a research project in Cosmology. You can find the Program of Study here but they have not signed it; I have tried in vain to find out whether a signed version of this contract is in existence). When I arrived in Portsmouth, this project was not available. I was given a couple of ad-hoc dead-end projects to do before embarking on the final one in a totally different section, which was also dead-end but took longer to manifest this property (people in my financial situation don't have much 'freedom of movement' in situations of this type - we just have to take what we are given). A similar case occured at Aston University with Kevin Wilkinson, who at least received an apology from Aston (which is more than I got). Mr Wilkinson also took official legal action, although I don't know how that turned out. As mentioned below, I asked Portsmouth University Students Union whether they knew how this court case turned out, but they just ignored me.

After my own experiences, I tend to think that British Student Unions are possibly similar to Soviet trade unions - absolutely useless whilst their representatives think they are performing a useful duty. This is a copy of a letter from the Student's Union expressing their whole-hearted support for natural justice by siding completely with the lie from the University. Any attempt for clarification from the Union was just ignored.

If it is genuinely the case that Universities are fully immune from consumer protection legislation, then it would be very nice if the Union could expend the effort to tell me so, unambiguously, in writing. Without this, I cannot complain about the general situation to third parties, because no-one would believe me that Universities have such immunity. I remember once complaining to my MP, Jon Owen Jones, that external examiners are appointed by the very department that they are to supervise. Jones refused point-blank to believe me - he volunteered to get me the address of the organization that appointed external examiners!! (which doesn't exist - the situation w.r.t. external examiners is as I have just described).

pdf version of above letter

You can read about British consumer procedures and law here at Consumer Direct. This details the civilized methods in force for complaining, as laid down by British law. It is Universities' immunity from the law of the land, these civilized procedures, that I am complaining about. (My claim for a refund followed the same procedure as laid down in the Consumer Direct website).

List of supporting documents on one file

University Challenge

Communication from a president of the Students Union

Steve Topazio, portsmouth students union .

"I have read through your documentation. You have exhausted all avenues of appeal within the University of Portsmouth and I believe you are past the deadline for refering your case to the Office of the Independent Adjudictor for Higher Education and as such there is nothing more the Students' Union can offer you in terms of support."

I have not exhausted all avenues of appeal - the University have just ignored me. Since the University has never sent me anything stating that I have failed in any 'avenue of appeal', how can any representative of the Students Union say such a thing? The Office of the Independent Adjudictor for Higher Education is a relatively young organization and was not around when I complained, and since they do not consider retrospective cases, any mention of this organization is irrelevant.

I had also asked the Union whether they could give me any more information on Kevin Wilkinson. The last I heard he was going to court but haven't been able to find how it developed. No attempt was made by the Portsmouth Union to even mention this issue.

I would always like to hear of any other analaogous statements made by this dunce (i.e. Topazio)

In early 2015 I asked the Chancellor of the University, Sandi Toksvig, to help me get an answer to my letter (of 2003) and asked her not to ignore me - she ignored me.

Sandi Toksvig at Portsmouth University

This is the latest communication from September 2016, in response to a recorded delivery letter which was addressed specifically to Sandi Toksvig (I suppose their appropriation of this letter could be a crimunal offence).

Adrian Parry

pdf of the above letter

Since all the relevant letters listed here are also displayed on this page, you will be able to see for yurselves whether the University has addressed my issue in the way described.

Normally I would say that Parry cannot possible be so stupid as to believe what he says. But he actually mentions the letter from the Research Degrees Officer of 2003 which is the starting point of my grievance but he appears to be totally unaware of this. He writes as though the letter of 2003 from the Research Degrees Officer is a reply to the letter of 2003 from the Research Degrees Officer !!!!!!

quote from Upton Sinclair

George Orwell : "Some people have difficulty in seeing what is right in front of their nose". )

  • General notes:

    I did once try and elicit assistance from the Trading Standards Office (although I knew beforehand it was not within their remit). They couldn't help me for this very reason but did actually advise that if I had paid by credit card then I might be able to make a claim for compensation. However, from my records it looks like I paid by debit card. This latter piece of information was not given to me immediately by the Trading Standards - they actually rang me back to offer this hint. So they at least understood my problem and attempted to do their best to help anyway, despite it not falling under their umbrella. Therefore I have received more assistance from an organization that has no remit in the University area than from the Students Union of Portsmouth University.

    This is a link to a document showing my financial situation after graduation, which might give you a clue as to how hard it was then to get some money together to follow a post-graduate course.