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I am SUING my uni for the right to compensation alongside 1,000 other students

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A few weeks ago, I joined campaign to take our universities to court over the recent wave of university strikes.

This was an action I had advocated for before the strikes began, during this period over 100,000 students across the country signed petitions calling for a refund.

As of Tuesday, 24th April, over 1,000 other students have signed up to sue their university for lost contact hours. Asserson, the law firm representing us have revealed that 27% of the sign-ups are overseas students. 

This number means Asserson can now file a Group Litigation Order allowing these claims to be collectively managed.

The claim is likely to be for breach of contract, seeking damages for lost teaching time. However, even if the contracts students signed with universities exclude damages for strike action, this could be ruled void under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. 

The case will be a "no win, no fee" basis, with legal fees paid for from the damages.

Shimon Goldwater, a senior solicitor at Asserson, said:

“If the class action is accepted, universities would pay out millions of pounds. Over 20,000 undergraduates attend each large UK university. Paying approximately £500 compensation each to 20,000 students would cost £10 million.”

Shimon further added that the site is expecting a surge of sign ups:

“With the UCU estimating in March that strike action affected a million students, with the loss of 575,000 teaching hours that will not be rescheduled, we’re expecting a surge of sign ups over the coming weeks. 

"This is already one of the largest student group legal actions ever to have been launched in the UK.”

One student who has joined the claim is Edward, a final-year UCL student. 

Speaking to TNS, he told us that too much teaching time was lost:

"I signed up for this action because I'm very unhappy. Due to the actions of the universities, precious time has been wasted as lectures and tutorials were cancelled.

"That the universities knowingly let the strike drag on until they were forced to the table by the unexpected force of strike action, when they knew that the strike would disrupt our learning and revision so close to our exams, is unacceptable. I stand by my lecturers, and I want my money back from the universities who have unfairly taken it from me."

Demands for compensation work in a similar way to a fee strike, where students withold fees until their demands are met. 

Demands for compensation, however, avoid a key problem that fee strikes face. Students on a fee strike risk being removed from their courses for non-payment of fees. This also means that international students cannot take part in fee strikes without risking deportation. Assuming home student fees of £9,000-£9,250 per student is approximately 5% of a university's tuition fee income(before payment from international students, who may be entitled to more compensation are taken into account. 

Universities will, therefore, be forced to think twice before taking any action against jobs and pensions in the future, r risk paying significant sums of money. 

A precedent for reimbursement will also mean no longer having to choose between sacrificing hundreds or thousands of pounds in fees and standing with lecturers on the picket lines.

As a free education activist, I believe this is a necessary step in holding the line - we are only asking for compensation because we are being made to pay for something that should be free. If universities insist on treating students like consumers, we have to hold them to account by any means necessary.

They must not be allowed to get away scot-free.

Sign up here

Feature image courtesy of Yousuf Ud-Din

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