On 7 February 2018, a Court decided the case of Mr Faiz Siddiqui and Oxford University.
Mr Siddiqui had sued Oxford University, claiming that poor and inadequate teaching was the reason for him graduating in modern history in 2000 with “only” an upper second (2:1) degree instead of his expected First. He claimed that as a result of not obtaining a First, he had been unable to pursue a career in law, arguing that he could have obtained a top position with a U.S. firm, who are known for their favourable salaries, or if not, he could have become a “high-flying” member of the British Bar, commanding considerable fees for his expertise.
He also claimed that his failure to be awarded a First affected his mental health, which has never really recovered. Mr Siddiqui is unemployed, but is qualified as a solicitor, though non practising.
The Judge, whilst sympathetic to his claim, did not agree and dismissed his claim against the University. He said he realised that Mr Siddiqui would be disappointed, but the evidence just did not support his claim.
Claims based on allegations of poor teaching leading to failure later in life are difficult to prove and succeed in. As in all claims, it is for the person bringing the claim – the Claimant-to prove that first of all there was indeed negligence in the provision of education and, often more importantly, that the negligence was the cause of the later failures to obtain employment, or to obtain employment at a level expected. If they cannot show this, the claim will fail.
But there are so many factors for us failing to achieve. We may be qualified in an over-subscribed subject in which there are just not enough jobs to go round. We may be stuck in a part of the country where suitable jobs are few and far between. We may just not “get lucky”. It is not always someone else’s fault. In most people’s eyes, a 2.1 would be counted a great success and would allow access to many jobs.
One comment the judge did make was that it would have been better if the claim had been brought earlier than it was.
This is because after some 17 years, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to make the links required between an allegedly negligent education and a failure to achieve, as so much of life and indeed luck to an extent, intervenes in the course of a career. But sometimes there are good reasons why a claim is brought many years after the original incident and outside the 3 year time limit for personal injury claims and the 6 year limit for contract claims. One common reason, as in abuse claims, is that the Claimant has been left so traumatised by the event that they are incapable of dealing with it earlier than they did.
Of course, if you don’t succeed through discrimination, or because you had a negligently undiagnosed condition such as dyslexia or a head injury which prevented you learning, then there may be a claim and it is worth seeking advice.
But both potential Claimants and solicitors would need to think hard before pursuing such claims. They are likely to be stressful if nothing else and a lost case can only add to the existing disappointment.
Mr Siddiqui may appeal the judgment.