The view of the student as customer is driving up legal costs, reports Phil Baty
A six-figure compensation claim continues to hang over Oxford Brookes University after a group of up to 28 former osteopathy students rejected a second offer to settle.
The students, who are claiming up to £25,000 each because the university failed to gain professional accreditation for its four-year osteopathy degree, rejected the latest offer of ex gratia payments of up to £5,000, with the chance to negotiate on amounts individually.
Graham McAnuff, a former Oxford Brookes student representing the students, described the second offer as insulting, despite the inclusion of the chance to negotiate, as there was no change to the sum offered earlier.
"What makes the university think the students would accept the same offer that was rejected previously?" he said. He added that the students had secured legal funding and that they had put the matter in the hands of lawyers.
The offer was particularly disappointing, he said, given that the claim - that the university had breached its duty of care and contractual obligations towards the students - was supported by an independent review last month.
The students had initially complained to the university, but this was rejected by an internal complaints hearing. The university argued that professional accreditation from the General Osteopathic Council was not a legal requirement when the students enrolled in 1998 and 1999. It claimed it had merely said it would seek accreditation, which it had.
The university made its first offer to the students on the understanding that it was not accepting liability and that the students would drop their case. Each student in the 1998 cohort was offered £5,000 to reflect the 17 months of additional study it had taken them to gain professional recognition, while the 1999 cohort was offered £2,5 each.
A spokesman for the university said that none of the students had informed the university of any decision to refer the matter formally to lawyers. He said the university remained committed to reaching a conclusion on the matter and was open to discussion with the students.