Prior to beginning a specific research degree course, Ph.D. students generally do everything within their power to ensure that the university they have chosen is fully committed to representing their interests. This means that not only do they expect to receive access to the required materials, adequate supervision and a fair oral examination on submission of their thesis, but they also expect - and are fully within their rights to expect - to be represented fairly and appropriately at their Review Panel Meetings. If you believe you have not been fairly represented, you have the right to launch an official appeal.
Poor representation amounts to breach of contract...
Many students mistakenly believe that when it comes to what they consider poor treatment at the hands of their teachers, lecturers or indeed Ph.D. supervisors, they have no rights and no recourse to the law. This is not the case.
In reality, since university tuition fees were introduced in the UK in 1998, the legal relationship between the student and education provider has changed to become one comparable to the legal relationship between a paying customer and fee-charging service provider. Furthermore, as university fees have risen from zero to £9,000 in the intervening years, and the average cost of a Ph.D. course is now somewhere between £3,000 and £6,000 per year (rising to as much as around £18,000 for foreign students), students who are not satisfied with the quality of their education or Ph.D. supervision have every right to seek legal redress.
What you can do when problems arise...
The first thing you should do is to make your supervisor aware of how you feel. The best way to do this is to express your concerns in writing and to be as direct as possible. You should also take the opportunity to mention any additional guidance or support you feel you may require.
If the meeting does not result in a solution you are happy with, your postgraduate handbook will provide details on how to ask for a change in supervisor. This must be done within the university regulations to ensure that the right people consider the request. If the request is refused, you may have recourse to the complaint procedure. At this point, you should refer to the university's official complaints procedure.
How we can help...
At Match Solicitors, we have a great deal of experience in helping Ph.D. students who are having difficulties with their supervisors. On many occasions, we have successfully challenged poor supervision and overturned decisions made by review panels, often obtaining compensation for students who have been treated unfairly by their university, or getting the research degree back on track.
If you are experiencing problems like those described above, feel free to contact us at Match today to discuss your case with one of our specialist higher education solicitors.