Judge throws out student’s challenge to OIA

A medical student who twice failed his final-year exams has lost a legal battle against the decision not to award him a degree.

January 14, 2012

Amandip Sandhar had been studying University of Manchester when he narrowly failed his year five exams in June 2008.

He argued he should have been deemed to have passed because of mitigating circumstances, namely that he had been forced to look after his elderly grandparents after his mother traveled to India.

He was allowed to re-sit the exams in 2009, but he was again unsuccessful.

He declined a third chance to retake the final year, contending again that the university should have granted him a degree given his personal circumstances.

These included the illness and death of his grandmother in 2009 and the anxiety surrounding the previous year’s appeal.

After exhausting internal procedures at Manchester, he took his case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in October 2009.

He challenged the OIA’s fitness to rule on the matter, saying it was not impartial given its funding came from subscriptions from universities.

The Court of Appeal has now dismissed Mr Sandhar’s appeal for a judicial review, saying there is no evidence to doubt the OIA’s objectivity because independent directors made up the majority of its board.

It also backed the OIA’s handling of Mr Sandhar’s case, saying it was not entitled to demand a declaration and injunction requiring Manchester to award a degree.

“This is an important judgment from the Court of Appeal,” said Rob Behrens, the independent adjudicator.

“It confirms that the OIA and its staff are independent and free from bias.”

Lord Justice Longmore’s judgment, published this week, confirms the subscription-model operated by the OIA allows it to remain independent.

“It is clear that the wages of individual case-handlers are not paid by the university against whom the complaint is levelled but come from the funds generally available to the OIA from all [higher education institutions],” it says.

“In all these circumstances I just do not see how…any fair-minded and informed observer could say that there was a real possibility that the OIA in general or its independent adjudicator or any individual case-handler was biased in favour of the [higher education institution] under scrutiny in any particular case or lacked independence in any way.”

The judgement adds: “If the OIA were adjudged to lack the necessary independence, it is hard to see why the same objection would not apply to many ombudsman schemes funded by levies on the businesses which come within the purview of such schemes or indeed to the disciplinary tribunals of many professional bodies such as the GMC or the Law Society.”

On Mr Sandhar’s wish for the OIA to undertake a “full merits review” of his situation, the judge adds: “The OIA does its task properly if it continues its investigation until it is confident that it has all the material it needs in order to make a decision on the individual complaint, and then makes its decision.”


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

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

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

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study