Oxford sued by graduate over disappointing teaching standards

An Oxford graduate is suing the university after failing to graduate with a first-class degree.

Grace Dean
12th December 2016
The Keble College Chapel, Oxford University Image: Wiki Pictures, DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

An Oxford graduate is suing the University after failing to graduate with a first-class degree.

Faiz Siddiqui graduated from Brasenose College in 2000 with a 2:1 degree in Modern History. He is holding the University of Oxford responsible for his grades, failed career path and subsequent mental health problems.

Siddiqui argues that he was prevented from becoming an international commercial lawyer by the poor quality of teaching he received as a student.

He has complained about the University’s emphasis on research rather than teaching, and pointed to the fact that four out of seven lecturers teaching the ‘Indian Imperial History’ module were on sabbatical leave, while Siddiqui was in his final year of study.

Siddiqui argues that the University was aware of this, yet did little to lessen the impacts it had on students, who picked the module, which he believes ‘could have been catered for by restricting the number of students’.

The Oxford graduate’s overall grade fell following his poor grades achieved in this module. Siddiqui believes it impacted on other History students at the University.

Siddiqui is to bring a loss of earnings claim against the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford that his lawyers have valued to be at least £1 million.

His counsel Roger Mallalieu said: “There is a statistical anomaly that matches our case that there was a specific problem with the teaching in this year having a knock-on effect on the performance of students.

“The standard of teaching was objectively unacceptable.”

Julian Milford - who represented the University in court - argued that it was too late to make the case against the university. He added that Mr Siddiqui had already received special allowances during the exam period anyway.

The lawsuit has been widely reported in the media and has been met with a degree of controversy.

Among those, who support Siddiqui’s argument, debate has revolved around the focus of prestigious universities on financial profits and international reputation rather than on the quality of education.

Paul Renteurs, writing for The Independent, described students in the education sector as being consumers rather than academics, and with that they should be protected by consumer rights as to the quality of education based on their expectations.

Melissa Livingstone, second year Law student at Newcastle University, said: “I believe that whilst the standard of teaching available to Mr Siddiqui was clearly unsatisfactory, ultimately it did not prevent him from pursuing a successful career.

“He received a 2.1, which is the grade asked for by top law firms today, and, furthermore, successful development in a law career does not rest upon grades but the value a particular solicitor can add to the firm.

“Mr Siddiqui’s particular interest in international commercial law requires an approach highly focused on business and current global affairs.

“I therefore do not think his university grade would be held relevant when considering his self-declared disappointing career progression.

“I do however believe this matter raises interesting points on what factors can impact teaching standards at universities – they should be at the forefront of Universities concerns when evaluating the education quality that they provide to students.”

It is believed that, should Siddiqui win the claim, many similar court cases might follow, and the debate about the role of higher education will open further.

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AUTHOR: Grace Dean
Editor-in-Chief of the Courier 2019/20, News Editor 2018/19, writer since 2016 and German & Business graduate. I've written for all of our sections, but particularly enjoy writing breaking news and data-based investigative pieces. Best known in the office for making tea and blasting out James Blunt. Twitter: @graceldean

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