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Education Law Case Study: University’s failure to provide suitable PhD supervisors

Education Law Case Study: University’s failure to provide suitable PhD supervisors

Who did we act for?

We acted for Ananya who, having embarked upon a PhD, was shocked to learn shortly thereafter that her PhD supervisors were amongst a number of staff members being made redundant.

What was the case about?

Ananya was passionate about her research subject. She was delighted when she secured funding from the University to conduct her three year research degree. Ananya was particularly pleased with two supervisors, whom she had specifically identified as being ideal to assist in her project.

After only a few weeks Ananya learned that cuts were being made at the University and that both of her supervisors were to be made redundant.  Given that Ananya had specifically chosen the University, due to the carefully chosen supervisors, she was very anxious about the future success of her PhD.

The University sought to reassure Ananya that alternative supervisors would be appointed but the University was unable to convince Ananya that the replacement supervisors were suitably qualified.  Ananya’s progress was therefore halted whilst she engaged in this dispute with the University.  Unsurprisingly, the whole process caused Ananya significant distress and anxiety.

What did we do?

We reassured Ananya that she was right to have concerns regarding the adequacy of the replacement supervisors despite the University’s insistence that they were suitable.

We supported Ananya to set out her complaint to the University and asserted that, at the time the University made the offer of the PhD and funding to Ananya, they must have already been aware of potential problems.  We made clear it was obvious that there were internal factors which meant the future employment of her supervisors was at risk.  We argued the University encouraged Ananya to accept the offer through misrepresentation of the facts.

We negotiated Ananya’s release from the contract with the University, without her having to repay funding for the year she had been with the University.  Ananya also received financial compensation for stress and anxiety that she had been put through.

The outcome

Fortunately, Ananya succeeded in applying to an alternative University for a PhD with funding attached.

We are delighted that Ananya has been able to transition smoothly to the new institution with new, suitably qualified, supervisors.