Legal aid?

May 5, 2006

The article "Lawyers to cash in if degrees derailed", April 21) states that legal firms are "preparing to handle extra student grievances with the introduction of top-up fees". Given that tuition fees have been with us since 1998 and that postgraduates and part-time students have always paid fees, they seem to be rather slow off the mark.

With a few notable exceptions, the general ignoranceof higher education by legal firms touting for business does little to inspire confidence in their utterances. Lawyers have lost more student cases than they have won. And I suspect they have not been an awful lot of help to institutions either.

It was lawyers who drafted the "disclaimer" contractual clauses many of us inserted into our prospectuses, offer letters and other publications back in 1990 specifically to meet the risk of being sued for breach of contract in light of the Natfhe examination boycott at that time. Their advice was that provided we had defined in our student-institution contract the scope of our obligation as being to take "reasonable steps" to provide "educational services" and "to minimise disruption caused by industrial action", then the risk of being successfully sued by students for breach of contract would be significantly reduced. As ever, there are no guarantees with lawyers that any of their remedies will work.

J. Karczewski-Slowikowski Manchester Metropolitan University

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