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When you make the decision to enter higher education, you will no doubt have a whole set of goals that you wish to achieve. The excitement of starting out on the next stage of your life with your future career in mind should be at the forefront of your thoughts.
But if a dispute or issues arise, excitement can quickly turn to frustration and anxiety.
Unfortunately, universities and colleges are becoming increasingly over-subscribed, leading to individual circumstances often being overlooked when issues arise. At HCB Solicitors, we believe that a student is not a number: every person is an individual who should have the best possible opportunity to develop their potential and realise their aspirations. This is why we are committed to providing expert student legal help in situations that can literally make or break future career plans.
If you have found yourself in dispute with your university or college, perhaps because you have been unfairly treated or a decision made has affected your studies, the first step is to follow the internal appeals process and/or the university’s own complaints procedure. You will need to prepare appeal documentation and may need to attend a hearing.
A specialist university solicitor will be able to assist you in preparing your appeal and also to represent you at any hearing that may be required. If you wish to avoid a decision being made that is not in your favour, it is wise to involve expert legal help. You will especially benefit from legal representation from a specialist university lawyer should your internal appeal be unsuccessful, in which case you will need to take your complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. This stage involves a detailed investigation and review of all supporting documents.
University Breaches of Contract
Because you pay fees as a student in exchange for educational services, there is a contractual relationship between you and the university. If the university is found to be in breach of contract therefore, you could be entitled to damages. In some cases, a civil action will be the only way to resolve university disputes, sometimes involving Judicial Review or a County Court claim. Again, student legal help from a dedicated higher education solicitor will give you the best possible chance of success.
If there are exceptional circumstances that have affected your preparation for or ability to sit an examination or assessment, then it is possible to make an application to notify your university of such circumstances. It is important that you report any extenuating circumstances as soon as possible. Internal procedures will be available to do so, and there is the opportunity to present evidence in support of university exam appeals.
University Disciplinary Issues
Disciplinary proceedings can have a significant effect, not only on studies, but on your future career prospects if a decision goes against you. These can often result in you being excluded therefore it is always advisable to seek specialist legal support. Students can be called before a university disciplinary or academic misconduct panel for a number of reasons, including plagiarism, cheating, bringing the establishment into disrepute and criminal convictions. Legal support throughout the entire process is crucial to robustly respond to any allegations and ensure that the appropriate procedures and legislation are followed.
Fitness to Practice
Professional bodies and organisations require universities to ensure that students working towards such qualifications are of the required knowledge, skills and character. This will often involve the university investigating students if they are concerned regarding their conduct whilst at university or on placement. These are very stressful and important proceedings as they can jeopardise your ability to qualify and practice as a professional in a number of fields. The assistance of a specialist education law solicitor can be critical in cases of this nature.
Exam and Coursework Plagiarism
Plagiarism is the act of submitting work that has been derived completely or in part from the work of others, without due acknowledgement. It can also arise from colluding with another student other than when permitted for joint project work and failing to acknowledge that significant help has been received. It is a breach of academic integrity as university policy will generally dictate that no candidate is allowed to make use of ‘unfair means’ in any examination, which would include plagiarism. Defending plagiarism cases call for expert legal representation from a specialist university lawyer who is thoroughly familiar with the law in this area.
Wrongly Classed Degrees
If you have found yourself with a degree classification that you were not expecting, and that you feel is unfair, you have a right to challenge the classification. This is something that could seriously affect your career prospects, so if you strongly believe your classification is incorrect you should seek the advice of a university disputes solicitor who will guide you through the process of commencing proceedings. In some cases there may be a need to take the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, and further to the High Court should their decision be unsatisfactory.
Discrimination against Disabled University Students
It is against the law for any education provider to treat disabled students in an unfavourable manner. Discrimination can be direct, for example by refusing admission; indirect, for example by limiting accessibility to learning resources; via victimisation or harassment, often through a lack of understanding of the person’s disability; or through treating a student unfairly which arises from their disability.
Education providers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled students do not suffer discrimination, and all higher education establishments are required to have a Disability Services Department responsible for arranging support for disabled students.
If you believe you have been discriminated against on the grounds of your disability, you should discuss the matter with the university in the first instance. If you still find that your issues are not being addressed, it is worth taking legal advice from a specialist higher education solicitor who will inform you of your rights, and guide you through any appropriate action needing to be taken.
How HCB Solicitors can Help
The specialist higher education solicitors at HCB are able to deliver a high calibre level of assistance to students through their extensive education sector experience which is respected nationwide. If you are facing a university or further education dispute and wish to make an appeal, or simply find out what your rights are, the expert help you need is on hand, so please get in touch.