Medic heads to appeal court in UCL degree battle

Viral Thakerar dissatisfied with an OIA judgement restricted by university’s destruction of relevant exam documents

February 12, 2015

Source: Getty

Seeking compensation: doctor contests a fail mark that meant he had to repeat his final year of medical school

A doctor is seeking almost £800,000 in damages after his medical school destroyed his assessment sheets while he appealed a fail mark.

Viral Thakerar was forced 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. Having received outstanding marks in previous practicals, Dr Thakerar decided to appeal the low marks awarded to him in 2011.

He complained that his examiners at Basildon University Hospital had not filled out the mark sheets properly and had not provided adequate comments on why they failed him.

UCL dismissed his appeal and denied 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.

He sought the removal of the fail from his academic record, as well as nearly £123,000 for loss of earnings and pension resulting from his delayed qualification as a doctor.

He also requested approximately £15,000 for accommodation and travel costs incurred during the retaken year and £650,000 for distress and inconvenience.

But when the OIA requested a copy of the mark sheets, it was told that they had been destroyed in September 2012, shortly after the watchdog had written to UCL about the ongoing case.

The OIA ruled in May 2014 that although it could not fully investigate some aspects of the case owing to the destroyed sheets, UCL’s numerous failings in its handling of Dr Thakerar’s case meant it should pay him £11,000.

The OIA said UCL had also been guilty of “maladministration”.

But Dr Thakerar, who graduated with a distinction in clinical sciences after retaking his practical exams in 2012 at a different hospital, said the offer was not sufficient and took his case to the High Court to seek a review of the OIA’s decision.

His second application for a judicial review of the OIA decision was rejected by a judge in December (the first was rejected in October), and he is now taking the case to the Court of Appeal.

Dr Thakerar said he planned to fight on because he believed that UCL should be held to account, particularly for the “catalogue of misinformation” he claimed was presented against him as he appealed his case.

His father Jitendra Thakerar said that the OIA’s finding that his son’s case could not be reheard because evidence had been destroyed was effectively rewarding UCL for its destruction of evidence.

“It just does not make sense for a party that is guilty of unfairly spoiling the evidence to have the case against them thrown out as a direct consequence of spoiling the evidence,” he said.

“It would create a perverse incentive for a university to destroy inconvenient examination data that is under appeal.”

UCL, which said that it destroyed the transcripts as it believed that the OIA’s investigation was over, declined to comment further on the case, as did the OIA itself.

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