Social work students were denied course work placements and suffered severe health issues due to an internal 'error' at Kingston University, the Surrey Comet can reveal.

Last year, some 20 students studying the Social Work undergraduate course at the university had their placements postponed indefinitely without understanding how it would affect their course.

Denise Lacey was one of three students whose complaints against Kingston University were upheld by an internal complaints procedure after initially missing out on work placements.

Speaking to the Surrey Comet, she said that the affected students were initially left in the dark by the university regarding the placements, causing them severe stress and anxiety.

Ms Lacey said: "In September we began our final year in which we are expected to complete a 100 day placement. 20+ students did not have a placement due to an 'error' in the faculty... There was a complete lack of communication and students started their placements (which some had to find themselves) 40-50 days late.

"Throughout this long wait, students became very stressed and some had to visit their GP's due to their mental health deteriorating (including thoughts of self-harm). This late start has impacted on our assignment deadlines and other modules/teachings - we were 'excused' from the lectures as they were 'irrelevant at the time' to us. The lack of communication only made matters worse and more stressful."

Kingston University conducted a review into the case and the findings were presented in an official complaint review outcome document seen by the Comet.

The document shows that the university upheld the students complaints. It also substantiated several of the key points made by Ms Lacey and her coursemates.

Under the sub-header Contingency Plan, the document read: "It is evident...that the Faculty does not have a sufficient contingency plan in place to support students who are not allocated a placement in a timely fashion. This is evident from lack of communication and the lack of alternatives for students to attend whilst a placement is being sought."

The document highlights how Kingston University offered Ms Lacey and her fellow students "a sincere apology", a reimbursement of some of their tuition fees for the associated module, and an extra payment "as a gesture of goodwill", but the students rejected these as "insufficient."

A further offer subsequently made by the university proposed a full reimbursement of fees for the module in question and an improved "good will" payment.

These terms, however, have also been rejected by Ms Lacey, Urva Ali and Hameda Amir, the other two social care students who cooperated to present their case to the university.

Ms Lacey said they had since presented their case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA), the independent national body which receives complaints from students in higher education.

Kingston University meanwhile told the Comet that they had conducted a full review into social work placements practice and had worked hard to reach a settlement with the students.

A spokesperson for the university said: "Kingston University takes students' concerns very seriously and has a robust complaints procedure in place to ensure any issues raised are dealt with effectively and fairly.

"Work placements have now been secured for the students affected and the University is working closely with them so they are fully supported to complete their studies.

"A thorough review of social work placement procedures is being conducted to ensure this does not happen again."

Ms Ali told the Comet that she felt the university handled her case in an unprofessional way.

Ms Ali said: "The university's procedure was long and caused lots of further stress. The social work faculty have been rude and quite frankly dismissive and unwilling to support us in completing our final year... I think they have behaved unprofessionally, and not following any of the values or ethics we are taught as social workers."

She added that although many of her coursemates will graduate in July this year, she would not be able to because of the disruption she experienced impacted the submission dates for her final year modules.

Ms Ali: "Nobody from the faculty has discussed this with me, but e-mails were sent out to all students claiming that they have. It is not fair that an entire department can treat one student so differently."