Requiring students to grant rights over their intellectual property to a university has become usual since the 1990s when one or two higher education institutions began it, the University of Leeds among the first I believe. Leeds still makes the claim in its intellectual property rights policy that although “students are not normally employees…the effect of the contract between the University and its students is, in this connection, to place students in the same position as staff”.
Recognising that seizing student intellectual property rights is likely to be deemed an unfair contract term if it forms part of a student contract, many institutions have moved the requirement into their statutes and regulations or ordinances. But a student contract routinely incorporates the institution’s domestic legislation.
There is wide variation in the extent of the claim and level of the domestic legislation at which it is made. From 2002, the University of Oxford has claimed ownership in its statutes of “all intellectual property” (comprehensively defined) as created “by student members in the course of or incidentally to their studies”. From 2005, the University of Cambridge has laid claim to student intellectual property in limited circumstances only, and mainly for research students.
The Ucas offer letter has long been requiring an applicant to consent to be bound by the statutes and other domestic legislation of the provider as a condition of accepting the offer. I believe Ucas has been taking legal advice on this practice after I raised a concern last year. Perhaps it may like to take the opportunity of responding to this letter so that the sector may be brought up to date on Ucas policy.
G. R. Evans