Durham in the dock over race

January 19, 2001

Durham University is accused of race discrimination in court actions brought by two Nigerian students. The cases follow the bishop of Durham's finding last May that the university has been insensitive to race.

The postgraduate students are seeking compensation and damages for discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976. Both cases will be heard at Newcastle County Court later this year.

Oladapo Ogundipe, a former economics masters student, and Suraju-Deen Tiyamiyu, a former MBA student, claim that their assessments were marked down in 1999 because of racism and they were victimised for complaining.

Durham is contesting the cases. The bishop of Durham, the university's visitor, who had called for equal opportunities training in his report, has already rejected Mr Ogundipe's allegations. Last February the university appeals panel rejected Mr Tiyamiyu's complaint about his exam failure.

Mr Ogundipe is seeking damages and compensation based on his failure to obtain the necessary 50 per cent in three of six exam papers he sat in 1999.

The university is threatening to pursue him for costs unless he drops the action. Mr Ogundipe has always said he would drop his case if his work were marked independently.

He won legal aid to fight the university's attempt to have his claim struck out or given summary judgment after an adjournment last week. He alleges he was a victim of discriminatory remarks and his personal circumstances were not taken into account.

Mr Tiyamiyu was refused an appeal against his exam failure in February 2000. He claims he was penalised for complaining of race discrimination, the university did not follow its equal opportunities policy and his work was not submitted to an external examiner.

A Durham spokesman said: "Both claimants have pursued their claims through the university appeals procedures, up to and including the visitor. Their allegations were examined exhaustively and impartially. They were not upheld."

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