So let’s discuss these Hearings in dark rooms in an obscure part of the University Building, does room 64B31C even exist?
“Sure your legal advisor can come” says the Panel Secretary three days prior to the hearing. “Oh no sorry, the Chair of the Panel Hearing says your legal advisor is not allowed in the room” says the Panel Secretary on the dayof the hearing. “You will have to represent yourself” she says, as she thrusts the bewildered student into the room only to be greeted by a Panel of five senior academics/lecturers from five different faculties, good friends I wonder? How does that sound for internal university procedures that can potentially impact your academic future?
Hold on, you haven’t seen the document that the other side just gave the Panel. A document containing secret notes about you that apparently your tutors and lecturers have been updating from the moment you stepped foot on campus…”why was I never told?” you ponder.
You talk, nobody shows interest in your story, appeal rejected. Next.
Seriously, the above does happen, although hopefully not too often and not all those things to the same person, surely not? You may find yourself involved in Internal Hearings for a variety of different reasons, we are talking academic misconduct, mitigating/extenuating circumstances, academic appeals, Fitness to Practice and general student complaints. Too few students even know that a solicitor can help them with all of these problems. Students are often left feeling vulnerable and reluctant to fight the might of the university.
Let’s be clear, I am not saying that all instances of internal procedures at universities are unfair; some universities try hard to ensure that a student is given the best chance to protect their position. I have a lot of respect for UK universities and the people that work in them. They are doing the best they can, but let’s be realistic here; often the people on the ground at these institutions enforcing these procedures do not always understand the processes involved. And why should they? They signed up to teach and inspire enthusiastic students, not navigate rules and policies drafted by somebody who has probably never taught a student in their life. Like any major organisation they are not always going to get it right.
The fact is there is a need for solicitors to be involved in these proceedings, otherwise how have solicitors managed to get flawed decisions overturned, excluded students reinstated and procedural irregularities scrutinised? Through solicitor involvement the balance of power has shifted back to a more level playing field.