Former Leeds student loses appeal against removal of PhD scholarship

Sanaz Raji criticises eight-month wait for decision from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator

March 27, 2014

A former PhD student who says that she has been battling deportation, eviction and poverty while awaiting a decision from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator has had her appeal against the removal of her scholarship rejected.

As previously reported in Times Higher Education, US student Sanaz Raji was awarded a three-year doctoral scholarship in 2009 by the University of Leeds’ Institute of Communications Studies. But the scholarship was revoked in August 2011 on the grounds that she had made insufficient academic progress.

After exhausting Leeds’ internal procedures for appealing against the decision (arguing, centrally, that her supervision had been inadequate), Ms Raji appealed to the OIA last July. She argued that the university’s decision had been unreasonable and that it had failed to follow its own procedures during her appeal, most significantly by not arranging a meeting between her and the assessment panel.

On 14 March, the OIA dismissed her claim. It said that she was given a “reasonable opportunity” to put her case to the panel, and the university “carefully considered” her concerns about the suitability of her supervisors, for whose alleged bias against her there was no evidence.

But the body declined to revisit matters of “academic judgement”, such as whether she had made satisfactory progress or whether her supervisors had the necessary expertise.

Ms Raji dismissed the judgement as “ridiculous”. “It is saying the university can basically make up rules and procedures as they go along,” she said, adding that in her view the OIA had swallowed Leeds’ version of events “word for word”.

She also criticised the eight months it had taken the OIA to reach the verdict. During that time she said she lived on charity, battling Leeds’ attempts to evict her from her student flat and seeking an emergency extension of her student visa, which expired at the end of 2013.

Despite repeated communications from her solicitor stressing the urgency of her case, Ms Raji said that the OIA had been unable to indicate at any point when it might issue a decision. She said that the stress of the situation had probably contributed to her recent hospitalisation with a condition called functional limb weakness.

A spokeswoman for the OIA said Ms Raji’s case had been “carefully reviewed”. She said cases typically took three to six months but the body fast-tracked them when asked, or when a student “appears to be mentally ill or extremely distressed, or where we are made aware of pressing reasons outside the student’s control”.

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Viewed

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi