Oxford Brookes University faces a compensation claim that could approach £1 million from osteopathy students who say it did not equip them properly for a career.
Students who joined the osteopathy course in 1998 and 1999 are seeking a refund of about £4,000 a year and compensation of up to £28,000 each for loss of earnings after the university repeatedly failed to gain professional accreditation for the BSc.
Oxford Brookes confirmed that 34 students were affected but would not say how many had complained. A student source said a dozen more students who enrolled in 2000 may also complain.
A formal complaint, which was submitted to the university at the end of last year and has been seen by The THES , says: "We believe that OBU has failed in its duty of care and contractual obligations to the students by failing to provide a curriculum adequate to meet the advertised aims of the course. In addition, the university has failed to provide the educational standards promised. Despite constant and numerous reassurancesI there has been subsequent failure to attain accreditation."
The Osteopaths Act of 1993 set up the General Osteopathic Council to regulate the profession and register practitioners. Courses leading to professional registration had to be accredited by 2000.
Recognised qualification status was not a requirement when the students enrolled, but they say the course was marketed as a vocational course for practitioners. They say the university must have been aware of the deadline for accreditation, particularly as the 1999 course handbook noted that "all osteopathic courses need to be accredited by the GOsC".
The students' complaint states that the university was advised to withdraw application for recognition after a critical inspection by the GOsC in 2000; it then postponed applications in 2001 and in 2002 as problems persisted.
It is understood that in May 2002, Oxford Brookes had to buy in a franchised course provided by the GOsC-approved College of Osteopaths'
Education Trust to enable students to gain professional status. This has meant a 17-month delay before the first cohort can practise and a five-month delay for the second cohort.
A spokesman for Oxford Brookes said the students had been given partial fee waivers and other financial support and the university hoped the course would gain recognition in June. He said 20 of the 34 students now had professional status and their compensation claim was with the university's insurers after a formal complaint hearing.