Consumer and human rights firm Leigh Day says it has written to the vice chancellor of Lancaster University to inform him that it is bringing a claim for lost tuition time during a dispute with teaching staff – a case that the firm predicts could grow into one of the UK’s largest group action cases.
The claim is for breach of statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act, and loss of contract hours.
Cathy Olphin, who is studying natural sciences at the university, has set-up a Crowdjustice page to fund the case. She and other students claim that they lost up to 14 days of teaching time when lecturers refused to work in a row over their pensions. The strikes have now been suspended.
In a pre-action protocol letter dated 4 May, solicitors at Leigh Day say they are taking action for breach of students’ statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act, and consequent loss of ‘contact hours’. The letter claims all students at Lancaster, and all other universities across the UK benefit, as consumers, from the statutory contractual rights that are imposed upon the universities (to provide 25-30 weeks of teaching per year) which were not met.
The Crowdjustice page says: 'We are working … to file a group claim against Lancaster and other universities, demanding a refund of fees paid for lectures that students have had to miss during the lecturers’ pension strikes. Students need to band together to bring a National Group Claim and raise enough money to pay the court costs and the costs if we lose (nothing is certain). Initially, we’re aiming to get to £30,000 but we want to raise as much as possible.’
The campaign has so far raised £475.
A separate group litigation claim, orchestrated by London firm Asserson, is running in parallel to this claim, though a litigation funder is yet to be appointed.
Sarah Moore, associate solicitor in the consumer law and product safety team at Leigh Day, said: ‘This is the first of hundreds of cases we intend to take against UK universities to try and reclaim some of the monies that students, who are consumers, have paid and not received services for.’
Olphin said: ‘I’m fighting to hold the university authorities to account for their breach of contract with thousands of students. Together we have lost thousands of hours of teaching time that we have paid for. This is not, however, a statement about the strikes by the lecturers, but against the university for the non-delivery of services for which I have paid.’