Diploma class sues college

December 7, 2001

A class of students is suing its former college for failing to properly equip them for professional careers, even though some successfully achieved their qualifications.

Six students are seeking "substantial damages" from Rycotewood College in Oxfordshire, claiming the college failed to provide a complete programme of study for their two-year higher national diploma course and broke promises made in the prospectus. Their lawyer, education specialist Jaswinder Gill, said the case heralded the beginning of an explosion of litigation in post-16 education as students who inves-ted time and money in courses sought to uphold their rights.

"I've got about 20 to 25 cases like this one coming through," Mr Gill said. "University and college students are recognising they are paying vast amounts of money and spending years studying, so they are scrutinising what they have been promised."

The lawsuit is being led by Lee Buckingham, who was awarded his HND in historic vehicle restoration and conservation, and Jason England, who withdrew from the course. They had won legal aid to pursue the case, which is being watched closely by the remaining four of their colleagues who are also seeking damages.

The six, all mature students, intended to go into specialist careers restoring and conserving historic vehicles. "Not one single student on the course obtained relevant skills or knowledge to follow this career path," Mr Gill said.

Mr Gill said they would be seeking damages for "negligent misrepresentation", claiming that promises made in the prospectus and other course material, and by course representatives during interviews, were not met. Mr Gill said the students would be looking to consumer protection legislation.

The course began in 1996 and not 1995 as planned, which reduced the time available for tuition. Mr Gill claimed that promised placements in industry failed to materialise and less than the promised 50 per cent practical vocational work was delivered. Basic tools were not available, forcing many students to buy them.

Three students achieved a qualification at the end of the course. "This speaks volumes," Mr Gill said. "At one time, students may have been satisfied with their certificate, but these students were so aggrieved at not being provided with what they expected that gaining the qualification was like adding insult to injury."

Rycotewood declined to comment while the case was part heard but it denies liability. The course was closed in June 1999.

An initial hearing at Oxford County Court was adjourned last week and a new date was set for March next year.

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