Students and Universities

The outcome of a University disciplinary investigation into a misconduct allegation has the potential to adversely affect the lives and reputations of all of those involved. It is in everyone’s interests that the procedure is fair and that all legal obligations are met and the respective rights of complainant and accused, protected. Sadly, in our experience, this does not always happen.

We are experts in disciplinary and fitness to practise investigations conducted by Universities, as well as in the associated areas of safeguarding and the application of the Equality Act 2010. Band 1 ranked in the major legal directories, our regulatory team acts for both students and universities in the course of disciplinary investigations and hearings concerning both academic and non-academic misconduct.

Students and Universities blog series

We often advise in investigations where the student or member of academic staff is accused of misconduct that may also amount to a criminal offence, such as allegations of sexual assault or rape. Where appropriate, we ensure that the interface with the police is managed appropriately and that the procedure followed by the University is fair and fit for purpose.  In academic appeals we have had particular success in challenging awards through the mitigating circumstances route; in non-academic appeals, our approach to the evidence is meticulous and forensic, whilst the support we provide is tailored and nuanced, depending on the issues at stake and the approach of the University.  

Depending on the nature of the allegation and client, the advice we provide can be drawn from our regulatory, employment, criminal and public law teams. Our advice extends to the process for appealing to the Office for the Independent Adjudicator and on bringing or defending judicial review claims of decisions made by Universities. 

For many of our student clients, a key decision is whether to ‘show their hand’ and let the institution know that they are legally represented: whilst each case is different, our experience leads us to conclude that better results are achieved when the institution is engaging with a student’s legal team, rather than a student directly.

Should you have any questions, please contact our disciplinary and fitness to practise experts in confidence or call us on 020 7814 1200. 

"[My child and I] are both ever so grateful for having crossed paths with you…you were such a pleasure to work with, you so ably guided us through and were an amazing support to us."

The parent of one of our clients

The care, consideration and professionalism which [our child] was treated with by you, meant what could have been potentially a life changing experience was one where he felt informed, understood and less frightened. I will never be able to thank you enough.

Parent of one of our clients

Latest blogs & news

How Universities should investigate a complaint under the disciplinary procedure

Once an allegation is made against a student (or member of academic staff), either by another student, a member of staff or someone outside the university, it is important that that the University takes stock of the issue and acts carefully to ensure fairness to all parties. 

The first crucial steps: how Universities should respond to allegations of misconduct

University providers owe a duty of care towards staff members and students; this duty takes on particular significance during a disciplinary process and it is essential that Universities provide appropriate and relevant information and support to all parties involved in allegations of misconduct.

Getting it right from the start: University policies for dealing with non-academic misconduct complaints

What happens when a complaint is made to a University about the conduct of a student or a member of academic staff?  What should the procedures for the resolution of these complaints look like and how can all parties be reassured that such allegations will be resolved fairly? 

Reflections on Westminster Higher Education Conference, Priorities for tackling sexual violence and harassment in higher education

At last week’s Westminster Higher Education (HE) Conference, speakers from Student Unions, Universities, to regulators and law firms discussed how best to tackle sexual violence and harassment in high education, including how to change campus culture and improve complaints and disciplinary processes. This blog summarises those discussions and reflects on where the sector’s key focus areas should be now. 

Publishing of adverse findings can be a sufficiently serious sanction

Wallace v Secretary of State for Education [2017] EWHC 109

Reminder of the importance of disclosure obligations: Successful appeal by two teachers challenging failure of their regulator to give proper disclosure

Anwar & Ahmed v National College for Teaching and Leadership (1) The Secretary of State for Education (2) [2016] EWHC 2507 (Admin) 

Case Update: High Court upholds decision of Secretary of State to impose a prohibition order against a teacher

The Queen on the Application of Lonnie v  National College for Teaching and Leadership [2014] EWHC 4351 (Admin)

Judgment Date: 11 December 2014

Case Update: O v Secretary of State for Education 2014 WL 16451

High Court holds that reasoning of Professional Conduct Panel of Teaching Agency (now NCTL) was adequate, however examples of where witnesses were found to be credible/incredible, may be useful.

Teachers: new measures for trainees to be introduced

On 26 October, Michael Gove, Education Secretary, announced that competence in grammar and punctuation, essay writing, spelling and solving maths problems including algebra would be requirements tested as necessary precursors to qualifying as a teacher trainee

Case Update: Webster v General Teaching Council [2012] EWHC 2928 (Admin)

High Court uphold finding of unacceptable professional conduct by Professional Conduct Committee of the General Teaching Council.


The Regulator: Tredinnick v The General Teaching Council for Scotland [2012] CSIH 21

An appeal against a finding of misconduct by disciplinary sub-committee of the GTCS was unsuccessful where a teacher, although unrepresented, could have participated effectively in proceedings and where the GTCS has no means of compelling witnesses to attend on his behalf. 

Puri v Bradford Teaching Hospital

The case of R (on the application of Puri) v Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2011] EWHC 970 (Admin), considered whether or not a claimant’s Article 6 right to an impartial and independent hearing was engaged in disciplinary proceedings. On the facts it was held that Article 6 did not apply, as the decision of the Panel would not prevent Mr Puri practising as a doctor, but would only impact his current employment.

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