Web protest student gets 'death threat'

A law student who launched websites castigating his former university and encouraging students to report problems with their courses has contacted the police after receiving hate mail that he considers to be a thinly veiled death threat.

The Times Higher reported this month that Mike Austen, a mature student who hit the headlines in 2001 when he received £30,000 to settle a complaint about the quality of his law course at Wolverhampton University, had launched three websites.

One of his sites reproduces numerous internal documents, details allegations of poor quality at Wolverhampton and outlines Austen's claims of victimisation after raising internal complaints.

Mr Austen said this week that the site, www.educationissues.net, had received almost 7,000 hits in its first two weeks online. He has advertised the website with Google, and anyone typing the words "Wolverhampton University" into its web search engine will be presented with a link to Mr Austen's site.

Another linked site set up by Mr Austen includes a discussion forum seeking to encourage students to share their horror stories and exchange advice on how to seek redress when they are not satisfied with their experiences at university.

It emerged this week that shortly after The Times Higher report was published, Mr Austen received an anonymous letter, sent to him at Bristol University where he now studies law.

It says: "Mike, what's it like to be a sociopath - you surely know that socio-paths always lead to 'dead ends'."

The poison-pen letter goes on: "You clearly still have delusions of (in)adequacy. Get a life before it's too late (as it almost certainly is in your case)."

Mr Austen said that the police have logged the mail as an offence under malicious communications laws.

Meanwhile, Sushant Varma, a former medical student at Sheffield University, has set up a website that is critical of the institution. Dr Varma did not complete his degree at Sheffield after a lengthy and acrimonious dispute.

His site - www.sheffielduniversity.blogspot.com - includes numerous newspaper articles that have covered problems at Sheffield.

It warns: "Do you want to go to Sheffield University? Read this before you apply."

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