Class of Degree

December 10th, 2010 by James Goudie KC

A graduate failed yesterday in his judicial review challenge to decisions by the Board of Examiners at Queen’s University, Belfast, refusing to reclassify his 2:2 degree.  The Claimant launched proceedings after missing out on a 2:1 classification in electrical engineering by half a percent.  He claimed that if he had received better supervision he would have achieved a higher degree.  Procedural flaws in the decisions were acknowledged by the University, which intends to convene a further hearing of the Board of Examiners to study the case.

However, Treacy J, in the Northern Ireland High Court, ruled that the case should remain exclusively within the jurisdiction of the University’s own appeals body.

Even if the further hearing of the Board of Examiners confirms the existing classification, two further rights of appeal are open to the Claimant, said the Judge. The Claimant can challenge the outcome to the University Central Students’ Appeals Committee and to a Board of Visitors.

A second argument on the right to education was also advanced.  The Claimant’s job prospects were said to have been jeopardised because of the degree awarded.  The University contended that a judicial review application was not the proper forum for the challenge, and that a Board of Visitors has been established to consider student appeals and complaints.  Refusing leave to apply for a judicial review, Treacy J said there was nothing in the jurisprudence to support a proposition that assessments and procedures for determining disputed degree classifications fall with ECHR Art 6 dealing with the right to a fair hearing.  The Judge also rejected arguments on the right to education, on the basis that the ECHR said nothing about rights to degrees or other academic qualifications.

James Goudie QC

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