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I have been withdrawn from my PhD course due to lack of progress cited by my university. I refute this. What action can I take?

I have been withdrawn from my PhD course due to lack of progress cited by my university. I refute this. What action can I take?

If you believe that your university's decision to remove you from your Ph.D. course is an unfair one, you have every right to appeal. Many Ph.D. students believe that when they are the victims of poor or unfair treatment at the hands of their lecturers or supervisors, they have little option but to accept this treatment and no legal right to defend themselves. Thankfully, this is not so.

As a Ph.D. student, before you begin your research degree, you naturally do all you can to make sure that the university you've chosen is wholly committed to representing your interests and working with you to help you gain the qualification you desire. As part of the contract you enter into with your university, you have a certain level of expectation regarding the service provided. It is reasonable, for example, to expect the following:

  • that you will be granted access to all the necessary materials
  • that you will receive adequate supervision throughout your course
  • that you will be given a fair and impartial oral examination when you submit your thesis
  • that you will be represented fairly and appropriately at Review Panel Meetings

It is also reasonable to expect that any decisions made by the university regarding your course will be fair.

It is important to remember in any such situation that the agreement you have entered into with your university is a legal contract and because of this, the university is under the same obligations as any other service provider. Since university tuition fees were introduced in the UK in 1998, they have risen regularly and now the average Ph.D. course costs between £3,000 and £6,000 annually (or as much as £18,000 for international students). This is worth remembering as it's a pointed reminder that you are paying for a service, and if that service is not of a sufficiently high standard, it may be possible that your contract with the university has been breached. If this is so, there is a strong foundation for a successful appeal.

What you can do if you don't agree with your university's decision...

Your first step should be to set out your concerns clearly and in writing. In this document, you should also point towards any evidence supporting your position, clarifying how in fact you have made sufficient progress or highlighting any extenuating circumstances.  This should be submitted as a formal appeal and/or complaint ensuring that you are complying with the appeal and/or complaint procedures at all times.

At Match Solicitors, our expert team of dedicated education solicitors have many years of experience in guiding and supporting Ph.D. students in a wide variety of difficult circumstances. If you've been withdrawn from your Ph.D. course unfairly, give us a call today to speak to one of our team about the specifics of your case in complete confidence.


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