If you find yourself at the receiving end of a complaint or allegation, the sooner you obtain legal advice the better your chances are of a favourable outcome. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent legal advice as early as possible. For immediate advice on university disciplinary proceedings, misconduct investigations, appeals or any related allegation, call us on 0333 240 7373 or email info@reeds.co.uk. For more information about education law, please visit our education law services page here.

 

We provide specialist advice to students in university and school disciplinary investigations and proceedings. Our focus is particularly on Russell Group Universities and leading public and preparatory schools.

We advise students where complaints may give rise to criminal investigation and are experienced in defending prosecutions.

We are experienced in handling disciplinary policies and institutional Codes of Conduct. These set out conduct expected from a student and detail the processes by which institutions deal with alleged transgression. These policies should conform to current guidance, such as the Guidance for Higher Education Institutions. Investigations and disciplinary processes should conform both with internal policy and guidance. A student’s failure to comply with Codes of Conduct can result in restrictions, punishment, sanctions and even expulsion.

We provide a comprehensive service, advising at any stage of the process, with the best results inevitably following early instruction. We assist in making representations to allow representation during interview and attendance at Disciplinary and Appeal Panels.

University Disciplinary Solicitor - University Dispute Proceedings and Appeals

We advise on appeals and have successfully overturned University expulsions following detailed written representations to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. This has involved forensic analysis of where Universities have failed to implement coherent policies and/or

failed to follow their own policies properly.

We can assist students in gathering and presenting the requisite evidence, as well as ensuring the University complies with its own policy.

Our education team comprises of Partners, Senior Solicitors and in-house Counsel. We regularly instruct Queen’s Counsel from leading sets of chambers. We can instruct public relations experts where necessary.

We provide a comprehensive, top-tier service for students and achieve excellent outcomes.

We have provided some initial information and advice in our FAQ.

 

For an initial discussion, call us on 0333 240 7373 or email info@reeds.co.uk.

 

 

What is a disciplinary at University?

A student disciplinary is an investigation process which can lead to a penalty. There are usually two types, academic and non-academic. These are governed by separate policies which set out different procedures.

When do University Disciplinary Proceedings Arise?

They will normally arise following the making of a complaint. A student will receive notice that a complaint has been made and that an investigation is being initiated. The most favourable outcomes are usually achieved when a student obtains independent legal advice at this stage.

Academic Transgressions

Misconduct relating to academic misconduct can include:

  • Plagiarism
  • False Authorship
  • Collusion
  • Misconduct in examinations
  • Fabrication or misrepresentation
  • Recycling, i.e., self-plagiarism

If any of the above is considered a disciplinary offence (such as theft, or forgery), the matter can be escalated depending on the university procedures. If it is believed that any misconduct does not reflect a more serious issue or intent, then a suitable penalty will be imposed. This can range between a mark of poor academic practice on the student record, or a penalty imposed on the student’s grading (a mark of zero, or a percentage reduction).

Non-Academic Transgressions

Non-academic misconduct is where the offence is outside the remit of one’s studies but may work against the university’s living and learning environment.

An offence may take the form of physical or sexual violence, hate or prejudice, ‘hazing’, harassment, fraud or theft.

What is the process for a University Disciplinary Procedure?

Universities each have their own policies which will set out the procedure to be followed once a complaint is made. This will normally involve the gathering of evidence and an interview with the student in question. The student should be entitled to understand the complaint being made against them and the evidence gathered. They should also be entitled to gather and present their own evidence. Policies often fail to adhere to these principles and similarly Universities often fail to comply with them.

What are my Rights When Facing University Disciplinary Proceedings?

When facing allegations of misconduct, it is important that the due process is followed correctly. Anyone accused of misconduct should be entitled to the following:

  • To be notified of the allegations against them.
  • To have an opportunity to share their perspective on the incident.
  • To be notified of the findings of the investigation.
  • If found guilty of the misconduct, to have educational outcomes that are reasonable for the nature of the behaviour, past misconduct, and the overall welfare of the student and wider campus community.
  • To request a hearing to dispute the findings of an investigation or recommended penalties.
  • To nominate a support person during disciplinary hearings and conferences.
  • To have access to, or be provided copies of, your student records.

And, of course, you are within your rights to seek professional legal advice at any stage. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent legal advice to assist you through the process as early as possible.

University Disciplinary Actions – What Will the Result Be?

Universities can impose a wide variety of penalties. If the offence is considered more severe penalties can include suspension or expulsion, or immediate referral to the police.

For less serious offences, a university can:

  • impose formal warnings
  • small fines
  • payment of damages
  • bans or restrictions to specific buildings or services
  • Confiscation of equipment (for example, music equipment for a noise complaint)
  • Impose a ‘No Contact’ order
  • Requirement to complete a reflective report
  • Referral to a student service or other appropriate service
  • A review of current accommodation (where student accommodation is held)

Whilst conducting investigations Universities often impose “temporary measures” or “precautions” which, may restrict a student’s movements, even requiring them to move out of their accommodation. Universities often fail to comply with guidance governing how they should deal with these issues.

Appealing a University Disciplinary Decision

Students appeal decisions to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator as well as the Conference of the Colleges Appeal Tribunal. Most Universities agree to be bound by the decisions of these bodies. We can assist in making detailed representations to the OIA scrutinising the investigation and disciplinary work conducted by universities. Often significant failings are identified in both policy and process which render outcomes inherently unfair. In those circumstances the OIA may overturn outcomes and require the University to pay compensation to the student.

Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator is an independent body established to review student complaints about higher education providers. When a misconduct hearing and review has been closed and a disciplinary decision made, a student is entitled to ask the OIA to review their complaints about the outcome.

Any appeal to the OIA must be submitted within 12 months of the completion of the university’s disciplinary decision.

Conferences of Colleges Appeal Tribunal (CCAT)

The Conference of Colleges Appeal Tribunal is a post-disciplinary decision appeal body for Oxford University. When a participating College has completed their misconduct procedure process and have imposed a disciplinary decision (usually with a substantial penalty) a student can appeal to the CCAT.

The Conference of Colleges Appeal Tribunal’s role is to consider an appeal in line with their appeals procedure.

Advice to Students Facing University Disciplinary Proceedings

If you find yourself at the receiving end of a complaint, the sooner you obtain legal advice the better your chances are of a favourable outcome. We would therefore strongly recommend that you obtain independent legal advice to assist you through the process as early as possible.

 

Reeds Solicitors’ School and University Disciplinary Representation

Reeds Solicitors LLP is an award winning, leading criminal defence and multi-disciplinary law firm. The firm provides legal services nationally and has 22 offices situated throughout England & Wales. Our Education Law services are headed by Partner and Founder Stuart Matthews, who has a depth of experience in this area.

Stuart Matthews is recognised as a ‘Leading Individual’ by the Legal 500, where they say:

“Clients consistently return to Stuart because of his complete commitment to dealing with each and every case with exceptional care and skill, always ensuring clients are kept fully informed of their options, and the procedures involved throughout.”

To read more about Stuart Matthews, or to contact him directly, please visit his profile here.

 

University Dispute: Office of the Independent Adjudicator Stuart came into my complex case when it was quite far down the line. Despite this, he was able to get up to speed with the extensive material very quickly... read more

MC
26/07/2022

Having never used a solicitor before, my family and I didn't really know what to expect. Stuart Matthews has been outstanding. He is extremely professional and very thorough and has... read more

Alex cook
17/11/2020

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