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The importance of university students knowing their legal rights

View profile for Andrew Barrowclough
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As students complete their UCAS applications for September 2016 a timely reminder of the seriousness of the application process has recently been provided by the Telegraph.

That useful article reiterates that there are a number of different issues for students to consider when picking a University that extends beyond the potential nightlife opportunities.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guide to consumer rights for students says: “Universities must give you the information you need to make your decision. This includes: the course's content, structure and length, the location of study and the award given on successfully completing the course.”

They also state that you should know the course title, entry requirements, core and optional modules, whether the course and university are regulated (and by whom), and who accredits the course. These issues are all vitally important but most student don’t realise  that when joining a university they are entering into a contractual relationship. The student pays fees and the university deliver a service (an education). Accordingly it is important to know what is involved with that contract and don’t be afraid to ask further questions and expertise or experience of staff.

One key area where our specialist higher education law solicitors at HCB frequently advise relates to PHD students who have been treated poorly. Providing such students with proper supervision is often the struggle for universities and this is where a legal challenge can be mounted. Whilst all students are entitled to supervision and support a PHD student in particular must have regular access to their supervisor in a structured manner.

Whilst the university are responsible for delivering an education and marking work fairly it is important for a student to also be aware of their obligations regarding funding their course and behaving appropriately. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse and issues such as plagiarism frequently lead to legal advice being necessary. In addition university fitness to practice panels are now being used frequently to exclude students from courses. HCB solicitors are often contacted for advice regarding such panel meetings and we can greatly assist with that process.

If a dispute between student and university arises then appeals can be lodged and all universities have complaints procedures. If those avenues fail a case can be submitted to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) and our specialist higher education law solicitors can assist you to prepare your cases.

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