Students in England and Wales received £400,000 in compensation from universities last year after having their complaints upheld.
The new figures, released in the Office of the Independent Adjudicator's (OIA) annual report, showed the body dealt with a record 2,040 new complaints from students in 2014.
Of those 500, or 23%, were settled or either partially or fully upheld, while 59% were found to be "not justified".
The majority of complaints, 61%, were from students who had appealed unsuccessfully to their university against marks, progression between years and final decisions on degree classification or postgraduate qualification, the ombudsman said.
Rob Behrens, the independent adjudicator and chief executive of the OIA, said: " The annual report demonstrates the importance of an independent ombudsman service for students. OIA case-handlers look at every single complaint that students send to us.
"Of more than 2,000 cases closed last year, 500 were found at least partially in favour of the student. Depending on the case this may lead to the student being given a second chance to submit work or appeal against a decision; cancellation of a penalty imposed by a university; or financial compensation, which in 2014 reached almost £400,000.
"As importantly, the report shows that overall universities are doing a thorough job in dealing with the majority of complaints fairly."
The report revealed £6,550 was handed out on settled cases, while £392,451 was paid out over cases found to be "justified" or "partly justified", which totalled 15% of all complaints.
Payouts rose from £313,750 in 2013, with 20 cases exceeding £5,000.
Business students accounted for the highest number of complaints over the year, making 292, while medical students were second, filing 226.
The second largest cause for complaint, at 15% was service issues, covering student complaints that the course or facilities did not meet expectations set out in the prospectus, concerns about resources and issues relating to postgraduate supervision.