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Office of the Independent Adjudicator

Gregory Jones QC

Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education amenable to judicial review

The Court of Appeal (Pill, Moore-Bick, Richards LJJ) has held in Siborurema v Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education [2007] EWCA Civ 1365;

The Times 10 January 2008 that the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (‘OIA'), the ‘designated operator' of the students' complaint scheme under the Higher Education Act 2004, is amenable to judicial review on all grounds. In the context of a challenge made by a student who had been withdrawn from a university course for failing examinations, the Court went on to consider that the OIA might, in appropriate circumstances, be required to address the merits of the complaint made to it by way of rehearing. However, in the circumstances of the case, it was not unlawful for the OIA to limit itself to asking only the questions set out in a rule of the Scheme, namely (1) whether the university had followed its own procedures and (2) whether the decision to withdraw the student from the course was reasonable in all the circumstances.

The Court also found that there had been a procedural failing in the way that the OIA had handled the complaint, in that it had not given the student an opportunity to comment on material provided to the OIA by the University relating to the reasons for his withdrawal. It was held that this failing could not, however, lead to the OIA's decision being quashed, because it would not have affected its decision. The judgment now stands as the leading case on the duties and powers of the OIA, and generally on judicial review of its decisions.

Gregory Jones appeared on behalf of the claimant (instructed by AP Law)

For further details contact Gregory.Jones@ftbchambers.co.uk