Introducing the litigious student

In recent years, across a number of countries, there have been occasional court cases involving actions brought by students against their universities. Where such claims concern services and facilities or the like they will not raise specific higher education questions. However, in a recent English case a student who had failed her exams claimed that this was the responsibility of the university, and that her failure was due to the inadequate support she had received. She claimed damages based on her assertion that the university had been ‘clearly negligent’.

The court did not accept her case, and the judge, Burnett J., ruled that she simply lacked the necessary aptitude, and that the university could not be held responsible for this.

It is of course important that universities should offer appropriate expertise and support to students, but this should not become a matter for courts to determine. At this current time funding cuts are placing major additional pressures on universities, and if this continues it is not impossible that such pressures will produce at least some reduction in student support. However, the social contract between universities and their students is to teach them and provide them with the best possible learning opportunities; it is not a guarantee of the student’s success, however, nor could it be. It was important that the court reinforced this point.

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3 Comments on “Introducing the litigious student”

  1. Al Says:

    But how many of us are believers?

  2. Vincent Says:

    ‘He said despite her academic ability, there was “no realistic chance” of her passing the exams.’
    How the dickens could he know when the crux of the case involved just that point. In logic how exactly does this work.
    Et, surely her 2:1 proved her ability. And if it didn’t how can it be said that her degree is adequate if a training course is beyond it.
    On another but connected point. You are truly stretching the purpose of an Academy when you include the training for professional practice. And totally over egging the pud when you draw onto yourself the mantel of the University for just such training. For lets be honest for a moment, such courses are little more than cashcows for all institutions.
    Further, at what point and just who states the point where the a Contract can be said to exist between the provider of training and the candidate. Or even if such can exist.

  3. Fred Says:

    I have seen in the past some cases when the failed student accused the university for his/her failure to obtain a PhD. In this type of cases the student usually complains for inappropriate supervision. This may be university’s responsibility and it is surely an academic issue.
    But proffesional exams is a different kind of beast. Usually not too “academic” so a good academic background while useful can guarantee much…

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