/ Money, Parenting

Should you expect more from university?

Uni degree

Do you ever cast your mind back to your uni days? Wonder how many hours you lost to that pesky dissertation? But would you consider claiming back your losses if you didn’t think your tuition was up to scratch?

Most of us go through university facing the usual challenges – we study, learn how to live with people who aren’t our family, have fun, feel awkward, write essays and dissertations in the dead of night, sit our exams and finally leave with our shiny new degree classification in tow.

For some, the experience can have a few hiccups along the way – it could be personal, financial constraints, a change of heart about their degree choice or maybe even problems with the standard of teaching.

And some of those students may decide to take further action

University challenge

They may decide to notify their university, and look to consult the university’s academic appeals and complaints procedure to find out how the university deals with any extenuating circumstances.

Or they might decide to consult Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) advice published in 2015 which informs providers about their consumer law obligations to undergraduate students.

But, rarely is it the case that a graduate goes to court in a grade dispute, which is why we will be watching with interest an upcoming court case between Oxford University and one its students who graduated in 2000.

Following an initial hearing in November last year, the claim has been allowed to proceed.

There were three issues for the judge to consider at this initial hearing: alleged inadequate teaching by the university, alleged mishandling by the university of Mr Siddiqui’s medical information and the issue of limitation (meaning whether or not the claim falls outside of the legal time limit of when a claim can be brought).

Mr Siddiqui submitted that the claim was not time-barred because he did not possess the requisite knowledge to bring the claim until October 2013.

The university’s application to strike out Mr Siddiqui’s claim was refused by the judge on the grounds that he believed there is a case, both in relation to the teaching quality and medical information, for the university to answer.

The judge also stated that Mr Siddiqui had a real prospect of succeeding in persuading the court that the claim was not out of time, and ordered that the claim proceed to trial.

What’s next?

Well, whether the former student is successful with his upcoming claim or not, the court’s view on this will certainly be interesting.

So, should expect more from university education? Or do you think you get what you pay for? Were you aware of the complaints procedures at your university?

Comments
Member

I’m very glad to see Which? is expanding its consumer remit to cover different areas. Hopefully this will soon include medical treatment, hospitals, education, politics and the police – for which we all pay one way or another.

Member

I’d be happier for Which? to expand its remit if it dealt with some of its current consumer areas better. 🙁

Member

I wish Mr Siddiqui every success with his claim and look forward to reading further details on how his court case goes. However, I am hoping that Which?’s extended remit will also enable it to pay a bit more attention to the concerns of those who don’t get a chance to go to university, and have been badly let down by the system in various ways. Perhaps some of them are not articulate enough or confident enough to unpack their problems on a consumer website so will need assistance and to be interviewed to reveal how they have been denied social care, or welfare benefits, or help in the home, or a training place. Just seeking some balance.

Member

That type of humor makes me laugh malcolm.

Member

I think just looking for a caring attitude John as your last sentence signifies , with you all the way on that ! (sincerity ) .

Member

I’ve limited experience with degrees but from that limited evidence what a student gets varies considerably from course to course, uni to uni. Luckily, the one I’m part funding as a parent, has had extremely high expectations and ensured their students have the right modules to stretch themselves, appropriate contact time and quality feedback to improve. However, that’s not the case for all their peers on other courses. Quality definitely varies. I don’t see why this area of education shouldn’t be subject to being brought to account through our justice system just like anything else but that’s not to say it can be simply qualified on contact time and/or achieved grade.

Member

I have some awareness of students’ problems through running the student-staff committee for a large department. It soon became evident that many students don’t let their module leaders or personal supervisors know when a problem arises. Mistakes happen and can be rectified, but it is essential to know that problems exist. It’s not only in the interests of students to do well but this is good for the reputation of their department and university. It is very heartening that some students are keen to help others have to confidence to seek help.

We faced the problem of being unable to deliver a final year module because the key member of staff had an emergency coronary bypass just before the start. The problem was discussed with the small group of students involved and a pragmatic solution was found. Common sense suggests that contingency plans should be made to cover for the non-availability of any member of staff but this can be a challenge when covering specialist subjects at final year or masters level.

Member

That’s true but there must be certain problems that in themselves mean the student doesn’t know they need to ask for help. Times the student might not even be aware they have problems because of the mental state they are in. I’m thinking, perhaps, depression, suicidal thoughts, or bipolar. For these issues staff need training to identify and need to have the confidence that university support services are there and well enough resourced to help the student.