A doctor whose medical school destroyed his exam sheets while he appealed a fail mark has won the right to seek a judicial review of his case.
Viral Thakerar had to repeat his final year of medicine at University College London after he failed a series of practical exams in which he was observed by hospital staff.
Dr Thakerar decided to appeal the low marks awarded to him at Basildon University Hospital in 2011, arguing that his assessment sheets contained bizarre comments.
But his appeal was dismissed by UCL, which refused his request for a grievance panel to be set up, leading Dr Thakerar to take his case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in December 2011.
It later emerged that UCL had destroyed the disputed assessment sheets shortly after the OIA wrote to the university about the case – an inadvertent act described by the ombudsman as “maladministration”.
Dr Thakerar rejected UCL’s offer of £8,000 in compensation, instead asking for almost £800,000, including £650,000 for distress and inconvenience, and the fail mark to be wiped from his record.
However, the OIA has said that it would be “impracticable” to turn a fail into a pass given the destruction of the sheets, and recommended that UCL pay him £11,000.
Despite two previous failed attempts to overturn the OIA decision, Dr Thakerar – who graduated with a distinction in clinical sciences after retaking his practical exams in 2012 at a different hospital – has now been told by a judge that his case should be re-heard given its “very unusual circumstances”.
In a ruling published on 1 June, Lord Justice Davis said that it might have been possible for UCL to convene a grievance panel that was wrongly denied to Dr Thakerar by using its marks database and the claimant’s own extensive notes.
While he noted that the OIA had made a correct decision on Dr Thakerar’s “rather far-fetched financial claims”, he did not agree with its view that the fail was made “redundant” by his subsequent pass.
“At present there is on his record a fail for 2011 which may be potentially damaging...which could be expunged by a decision of the grievance panel,” he said.
Dr Thakerar’s father, Jitendra Thakerar, said that his son was not seeking compensation, but wanted to erase the stain on his academic record.
“As the Lord Justice appreciates…it is the non-monetary issues in their decision which are causing my son distress,” he said.
UCL, which has said that it destroyed the transcripts as it believed that the OIA’s investigation was over, declined to comment on the case, as did the OIA.