Cathy Olphin, a first-year Natural Sciences student at Lancaster University, has launched legal action following recent strikes by academic staff over pensions.
She claims that the university’s failure to compensate for the teaching time lost to the strikes constitutes a breach of contract.
Her lawyers, Leigh Day, claim that “This is the first of hundreds of cases we intend to take against UK universities to try and reclaim some of the monies that students have paid and not received services for.”
Leigh Day have written to the Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University saying that they are “taking legal action on behalf of Miss Olphin against Lancaster University for breach of her statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act”.
They say that for a period of over two weeks Olphin missed out on a number of “lectures, workshops and other lecturer-led activities” to which she was “contractually entitled”.
Olphin stressed that “Lancaster is not the only university affected. We intend to take this fight wherever students have been short-changed.”
To that end she has set up a CrowdJustice page here, where she hopes students will “band together” to finance a National Group Claim.
She said: “This case is about more than just pocket money for students. It is setting a precedent that if students are to be charged high fees for education, we deserve the same consumer rights given to anyone else.”
Leigh Day was established in 1987 by Martyn Day and Sarah Leigh. They claim on their website that “The firm’s ethos is to ensure that the ordinary person has just as good quality legal advice as our state bodies, insurers and multi-nationals.”
The Guardian has described them as “troublemakers who are a thorn in the side of multinationals”.
Olphin said: “Although I wholeheartedly support the lecturers’ strikes, I feel that students are being treated unfairly.
“Like most other students, I have come to university to learn, and the idea of paying university fees for tuition, whilst not getting what you paid for, strikes me, and most other students, as unjust.
“I’m fighting to hold the university authorities to account for their breach of contract with thousands of students. Together we have lost thousands of hours of teaching time that we have paid for.
“This campaign is not in opposition to striking lecturers. It is in support of students who have borne the brunt of a dispute that could have been resolved.”