Claim for negligent teaching against University of Oxford fails
University legal teams can breathe a small sigh of relief following the recent High Court judgment in the widely-publicised case of Siddiqui v University of Oxford.
Mr Siddiqui sued the University for negligent teaching on his Modern History undergraduate course. He claimed that if he had been better taught, he would have achieved higher than his low 2:1 and would have been admitted to law school in the US and ultimately gone on to a more successful and lucrative legal career.
The High Court found against Mr Siddiqui on every aspect of his claim.
Firstly, it decided that the University had not delivered the course negligently. Mr Siddiqui had failed to show that his course had been under-resourced, as the same amount of teaching had been delivered to his year group compared to others, albeit his teacher was under more pressure owing to staff shortages. Secondly, even if Mr Siddiqui had shown negligent teaching, it was generally difficult (and impossible in his case) to show that this caused him to perform measurably worse in his exam. There were other factors that could have affected his performance and, on a practical level, his exam scripts had long been destroyed. In addition, the court found that he had not shown that his exam results had contributed to his failure to get into US law school or to his other perceived underachievement in employment.
The case shows that it will be difficult for students to successfully claim compensation for underperformance allegedly caused by negligent teaching except where there has been a clear case of operational negligence, such as being taught the wrong course content or set the wrong exam. The quality of teaching will always be just one of many factors that can contribute to underperformance in exams.
That said, whilst it may be legally difficult for students to successfully bring these sorts of claims, it remains to be seen whether students will actually be dissuaded by this judgment, particularly when they are investing heavily in their University education.
We understand that Mr Siddiqui is planning on appealing the decision.
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