The recent suspension of the Sussex Five (five students from Sussex University)  has highlighted that, when a university decides to discipline students in accordance with their Disciplinary Regulations, two fundamentals are important –

1. The university follow their own Regulations, which should be clear and fair
2. Their Regulations provide a sufficient mechanism for unilateral decisions to be challenged

Highlighting five students to suspend and exclude with immediate effect is always going to further disenfranchise your population. If a university is going to exercise a unilateral power to suspend a student, without first presenting evidence to that student of the case against them, then the university need to ensure, at the very least, that a comprehensive and clear appeal right exists in their Disciplinary Regulations.

My experience in Higher Education Law has shown all too often that universities respond to on campus events in a reactionary manner. They can fail to diligently consider their internal Regulations and in turn fail to ensure that what they are doing is in accordance with their own Policies. I have too often come across Regulations that allow Vice-Chancellors, University Councils, Registrars, University Secretaries to exercise certain powers, but then no clear provision being put in place to allow for that power to be challenged. And of course it comes as no surprise that in some instances universities exercise their powers incorrectly. Some can fail to even follow the procedures set out in their own Regulations and by the time such improper decisions are reviewed or overturned students have suffered significantly.

If a university is going to seek to rely on their Regulations to stop students from protesting then they need to ensure that they follow the Regulatory procedure and the procedures themselves are fair and open to challenge via an appeal process. These are the fundamental principles of any just society.

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