More than 4,500 law students have now signed up to join a multi-million-pound group legal action against several universities over Covid and strike disruption, the Gazette has learned – as the High Court prepares to hear a request for a group litigation order to be made in relation to claims against University College London (UCL).

The UCL litigation is the first in a series of claims being brought by the ‘Student Group Claim’ against UK universities. The legal challenge is being led by law firms Asserson and Harcus Parker. When the Gazette spoke to Harcus Parker partner Ryan Dunleavy last November, the number of law students joining the claim was approaching 3,000.

On Thursday, lawyers for hundreds of current and former UCL students will ask the judge to grant a group litigation order. However, UCL will reportedly oppose the application, and argue that students should first be required to go through UCL’s internal complaints procedure and, if matters are not resolved, complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

Lawyers for the students are expected to argue that the students are not obliged to undertake such measures and that any delay would breach students’ right to a fair trial under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Dunleavy said: ‘I believe that students like any consumer have a right to go to the court if they have suffered a breach of contract. It is high time these matters were addressed and students were provided with a clear path for getting redress.’

A UCL spokesperson said: ‘We have a well-established complaints procedure, which gives students the option of complaining to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education if they are not satisfied with our response. This is the appointed independent body for dealing with student complaints with powers to recommend that UCL make awards of compensation to affected students where appropriate, and this is free for students to use.

‘We believe this process represents the best, most efficient and swiftest way for our students to resolve any complaints. In proposing this, we are not suggesting that students should not be able to seek access to the courts, but given that they have not yet used appropriate and available ways to resolve their complaints through our established processes, the group litigation order is unnecessary and premature.’

So far, more than 75,000 current and former students have signed up to bring claims via the Student Group Claim website. Letters before action have been sent to 18 universities. The legal team expects to add more universities - including law schools.


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