Hertfordshire faces legal action

December 15, 2000

Hundreds of students have demanded compensation for falling academic standards at the University of Hertfordshire, raising the prospect of mass legal action.

The university announced the closure of four departments earlier this year but reassured students that it would honour its commitment to them.

The students are complaining that this commitment and their original "contracts" with the university have been breached.

Students from the department of social sciences, which is being phased out, have collected 780 signatures supporting their demand for "compensation for the decline in education provision, as a result of changes already made". They are calling on the management to admit that its actions "have affected students and the quality of education provided".

Naheed Boethe, a final-year student representative on the politics course, said some students were consulting solicitors about compensation.

"Our lecturers are disappearing and no one seems to know what is happening. We are being treated like idiots," he said.

The petition claims that key lecturers and support staff have already left the university, reducing the pool of expertise and course options. They say dissertations have had to be cancelled as tutors facing uncertain employment prospects refuse to commit to projects.

It demands guarantees that future changes will be "more considerate". Students want existing lecturers earmarked for redundancy to be employed until the end of the academic year in summer 2001, rather than leaving in March 2001. They also want guarantees that their essays and exam papers "will be marked by full-time lecturers running the courses".

Similar petitions have been collected on the other courses facing closure, in the departments of chemistry, performing arts and civil engineering. Staff support the action, and lecturers' union Natfhe has taken strike action over plans to cut up to 104 jobs.

The university is making the cuts to prevent a predicted £2.6 million deficit for next year.

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