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19 MAR 2014

Wilson v The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education & Anor [2014] EWHC 558 (Admin)

The Court upheld the findings of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, finding that it was entitled to reach all of its conclusions as to complaints by the Claimant against the University of Hull.

5 March 2014

Administrative Court

Philip Mott QC

(1) The Claimant sought judicial review of the Defendant's decision dated 10 January 2012 and a subsequent second decision. The Claimant registered at the University of Hull in October 2009 on a course in Personal Corporate Coaching, a two year programme. The tutors were a married couple: Dr D and D R and the course comprised six modules. The first and second modules were passed. The third was completed, but was not marked following a problem with module four.

(2) Due to disagreements with the tutors as to the timings of replacement online seminars, correspondence between the tutors and the Claimant became acrimonious. Within a few weeks of this, Dr D informed the Claimant that he had failed module 3. This decision was upheld by an external examiner. The Claimant submitted a formal complaint against the tutors, which was investigated and reported upon by Dr C on behalf of the Head of Department. The Claimant's failure in modules 3 and 4 were confirmed by the external examiner. The Claimant did not resubmit any work for these modules, and failed to complete modules 5 and 6.

(3) Following complaint, the OIA issued a decision finding that the complaint was partly justified, and recommended that the course fees be reimbursed. A further review by the OIA was completed on 30 October 2013, after the Claimant issued these proceedings, and it recommended an apology, the return of course fees and the sum of £6,000 for compensation and distress. The Claimant has rejected this finding.

(4) The Claimant's complaints were that:

(a) He was treated unfairly by the tutors, who were willing to accommodate others but not him;

(b) The second decision failed to accept that the university lost his work for module 2;

(c) The second decision failed to find that his allegations of lies and collusion were justified;

(d) The only reasonable conclusion to draw from the evidence was that Dr C had lied in stating that his report was concluded, when it had not been concluded;

(e) The Head of Department should not have been a member of the internal Complaints Adjudication Panel (‘CAP') as she was also the Deputy Complaints Investigation Officer;

(f) The Claimant sought £15,600, which was the current cost of an equivalent course, and the OIA failed to explain why only £6,000 had been recommended.

(5) HELD: As to ground (a), the OIA's conclusion that the complaint of unfair treatment was not justified was rational and adequate reasons were provided.

(6) As to ground (b), relating to lost work, the Court found that there was not any inconsistency between the decisions of the OIA, and as such, this ground of complaint fell away.

(7) Further, in relation to ground (c), the Court held that whilst the investigation conducted by the university had been inadequate, there was no inconsistency between the OIA's decisions, and thus this ground failed.

(8) The conclusion as to ground (d), that the complaint had only been partly justified on the basis the poor quality of the investigation, had been within the range of reasonable conclusions open to the OIA. The evidence fell short of establishing dishonesty, and therefore there was no basis for an allegation of irrationality.

(9) The inclusion of the Head of Department on the CAP was not unreasonable, as she had not been involved in the internal investigation into the Claimant's complaints. She was therefore an unbiased member of the panel. The OIA had correctly rejected the Claimant's complaints in this regard.

(10) No explanation of the OIA's mathematical reasoning was required, and the figure of £6,000 could be rationally arrived at. The Court thus concluded that the application failed on all grounds.

Claim dismissed.

Key paragraphs

[18] - Grounds.

[21] - Unfair treatment.

[25] - Ground b.

[28] - Ground c.

[32] - Ground d not irrational.

[35] - Ground e.

[40] - No error in law.

[41-42] - Mathematical reasoning.

[45] - Conclusion.

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