Disappointed Oxford Graduate Fails in £1 Million ‘Negligent Education’ Claim
Not every student can achieve the exam results they want and proving that negligent teaching is the cause of perceived failure is notoriously difficult. In one case, an Oxford University graduate who failed to win a first-class degree could not establish that poor tuition was the cause of his disappointment.
The History graduate, who left Oxford with a low 2:1 degree, claimed over £1 million in compensation from the university, principally in respect of lost earnings. That was on the basis that his failure to get a First, or at least a high 2:1, had stymied his chances of forging a career as a commercial lawyer.
The university admitted that it had encountered difficulties in teaching one of the graduate’s specialist subjects in his final year, due to the absence of over half of the relevant faculty staff on sabbatical at the same time. The graduate’s lawyers claimed that the eminent professor who taught him had thereby been put under intolerable pressure, resulting in a negligent standard of tuition.
In dismissing his claim, however, the High Court found that the professor was an excellent teacher who had put his shoulder to the wheel in making up for the staffing crisis. Also rejected was the graduate’s plea that his personal tutor had failed to alert the examination authorities to the fact that he was suffering from insomnia, depression and anxiety when he sat his finals.
The Court found that the graduate had received perfectly adequate tuition and that his disappointing result on one exam paper was more likely to have been caused by his own inadequate preparation, a lack of academic discipline, his general anxiety about taking exams and a severe episode of hayfever.
The Court expressed sympathy for the intermittent bouts of depression that the graduate had endured, but found no evidence that he was suffering from mental health problems when he took the exam. His perceived academic failure was not the root cause of his inability to hold down various jobs since he left Oxford and there was no basis for his entrenched belief that that was the case.