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The misuse of fitness to practice procedures

View profile for Nathan Davies
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The specialist education law solicitor team at HCB have many years of experience in assisting students who are subjected to a fitness to practice process.

Fitness to practice procedures are a common way in which Universities discipline students for conduct that they consider inappropriate and unbefitting the chosen profession that they hope to enter. Sometimes such a process is justified such as a student who has committed a serious criminal act or one who has engaged in abusive or inappropriate behaviour towards another student. A threat to attack another student for example would usually be considered a serious concern.

The difficulty is that the line between when an issue affects a student’s fitness to practice or their competence generally is difficult to determine. For example a student social worker who breaches confidentiality has clearly made an error- but should that student not be allowed to ever continue with their studies as a result? Or a student dentist who was rude to a patient after a long day- should they be disbarred from working with patients again? Those 2 examples are clearly mistakes but it seems unfair to subject a student to a very stressful disciplinary process on the basis of such errors. All students make errors and indeed that is why they are only students- they are learning.

The problem is that when students are charged with fitness to practice offences they are often so alarmed by the process that they don’t know how to defend against the process. HCB’s specialist education law solicitors have guided many students through this process. The key is to remain calm, to objectively argue the points raised and to trust in the internal system. More often than not in our experience the panel who ultimately decide the issue are detached form the relevant department bringing the claim. If the case is presented properly then the end result can be that no sanction is needed at all. Our university advocates can also attend the hearing to represent students to ensure the key points are argued properly.

Our specialist education law solicitors are passionate about fighting for students who have been mistreated via an unfair fitness to practice process so if you need help  please do contact us today on 02920 291704.

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