The Queen has ordered Essex University to reconvene a student appeal tribunal because "justice should be seen to be done".
Acting on behalf of the Queen as the university's visitor, Lord Slynn of Hadley has upheld a student's complaint that he did not get a fair hearing when he appealed against the university's decision to discontinue his PhD studies. As an overseas student, Mark Williams had paid Pounds 12,000 in tuition fees.
Lord Slynn rejected Mr Williams's complaints that he had received inadequate supervision and had faced discrimination as an American, but he did agree that Mr Williams's appeal "was not considered by an independent and impartial tribunal".
In November 1997, the university's research students progress committee recommended to the dean of the school of graduate studies, Michael Sherer, that Mr Williams should be asked to withdraw. The dean formally accepted the recommendation.
Mr Williams was told that if he wanted to appeal against the decision he should appeal to the dean. His appeal failed and Mr Williams complained to the university's visitor.
Lord Slynn said: "The objection is that the dean had already accepted the recommendation and could not therefore properly sit on a committee to review the recommendation." He said that although he did not challenge the decision, "it has long been our law that justice should not only be done but should seen to be done". He continued: "I hold that the dean's decision on the appeal must be set aside, the question be referred to a differently constituted panel and the dean reconsider the case in the light of that panel's opinion."
A spokesman for Essex University said it was "pleased" with the judgment. "Mr Williams had raised four main complaints, three of which (concerning inadequate supervision and discrimination) were dismissed by Lord Slynn and one was upheld on a technical issue. A newly constituted review committee is being established to hear the case very shortly, and the university's procedures will be amended accordingly."
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