Academic Judgement, the University Visitor and the Human Rights Act 1998
Education & Law, Vol. 11, p. 165, 1999
37 Pages Posted: 8 May 2008
Students have proved increasingly willing to challenge academic judgements in court, and the passage into English law of the Human Rights Act 1998 is likely to have a major bearing on future challenges. The Act will make it unlawful for a public authority (including both a university and the courts) to act in a way which is incompatible with many of the provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights (and the Protocols attaching thereto). It will also permit a victim of such unlawfulness to bring proceedings in an appropriate court or tribunal, whether in the High Court as part of an application for judicial review or as an ordinary civil action for negligence or breach of contract. The court will have the power to grant whatever remedy it considers to be just and equitable, including an award of damages where it feels such an award to be appropriate. This could have significant consequences for the use of the Visitor in chartered universities as the final arbiter in disputes over academic judgments. For the Visitor does not conduct hearings in public and often fails to follow any recognised procedure. It may even be doubted whether the Visitor can be said to be truly independent of the institution against whose decision the student is appealing. In future, therefore, universities may have to be prepared to justify any marks awarded in the public forum of the courtroom.
Keywords: Law, Education, University, College, Visitor, Rights
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