New and pragmatic guidance has been issued by the courts to ease the bureaucracy surrounding student complaints.
The procedural tension arises when a student considers two routes of redress – one via the courts, using judicial review (JR) and one via the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA):
Clearly it would be prudent to exhaust the OIA process first, but that would risk the student losing their right to apply for JR. This conundrum has led to students commencing both processes, and then attempting to 'stay' the JR proceedings to allow the OIA to consider the complaint first. This strategy is expensive, bureaucratic and ties up the court’s resources unnecessarily. Not unreasonably, universities often attempt to strike out the JR claims, wishing only to fight one battle at a time.
In R (Zahid) v University of Manchester , the High Court has laid out new guidelines for managing this issue, addressing the conflicting time limits. These guidelines have the force of court rules, and will therefore have costs repercussions if not followed – meaning there are no tactical advantages to avoiding them. All parties should implement the following process with immediate effect:
These sensible and pragmatic guidelines should make the management of student claims more straightforward for both parties.