Can students sue their university for inadequate teaching? An Oxford student has tried - and failed - to bring a £1m damages claim against Oxford University
It goes without saying that the teaching standards at the UK’s finest academic institutions – like Oxford and Cambridge – should be second to none. But, former Oxford student, Faiz Siddiqui, now 39, claims that inadequate teaching cost him entry to a prestigious US law firm, or a career as a high-earning tax barrister (though he did secure an elusive training contract with magic circle firm, Clifford Chance).
Mr Siddiqui recently took his claim to the High Court – seeking £1m in damages – and lost.
He argued that, during his examination period, his personal tutor didn’t alert the examination authorities to his ‘insomnia, depression, and anxiety’. The University accepted that there were fewer teaching staff available at the time, but denied that their teaching was ‘negligently inadequate’.
Yesterday, the court found that there was nothing in the email exchanges between academic staff and Mr Siddiqui that suggested he was depressed, or experiencing insomnia, during his exams. The Judge believed that Mr Siddique deserved sympathy and understanding, and that the case had been exceptionally well argued, but, ultimately, dismissed his claim.
In his verdict, the Judge warned students that taking legal action against academic institutions was fraught with difficulty. He understood that with greater student debt would come greater scrutiny, saying that, although there may be ‘rare cases’ where compensation claims for inadequate tuition are successful, the hurdles in winning are ‘great and often insurmountable’.
This case is a clear reminder that students and graduates should be extremely cautious in pursuing claims like this, and should look for better ways to address the issue.