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More than 5,000 students seeking Covid-19 disruption compensation

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More than 5,000 students seeking Covid-19 disruption compensation

More than 5,000 students are now taking legal action against one of the country’s largest universities

It’s over disruption to their tuition caused by strikes and the Covid-19 pandemic, a judge at the High Court has said.

Current and former students at University College London (UCL) are seeking damages over alleged breaches of its contractual obligations to provide in-person teaching and access to facilities.

UCL is defending the claims, stating it was not under an obligation to provide in-person, campus-based tuition.

Lawyers for the students told a hearing in London last month that the case should be managed through a group litigation order (GLO), where several claims with similar issues can be dealt with together.

But in a ruling on Wednesday, Judge Jeremy Cook said that while there are “a large number of claims, in excess of 5,000”, a GLO “would not be appropriate”.

He said: “I am not satisfied that my discretion should be exercised in favour of making a GLO.

“I do not consider a GLO will help to promote fairness, save costs or allow the claims to be dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.”

The hearing in June was told that UCL is the second largest university in the country, with around 51,000 students.

Those taking legal action against the body were students at the university for at least one year between 2017 and 2022, with some still studying.

Judge Cook said that further hearing in the case is expected to be held on July 19, before another hearing in November.

Following the ruling, UCL said that a trial of several “test cases” is due to be held in 2026.

Professor Kathy Armour, vice provost of education and student experience at UCL, said: “We are pleased that the court has refused the GLO application which would have only caused further delay to this claim.

“During the course of these proceedings, UCL has never sought to dispute the right of individuals to access the courts to bring claims as a matter of general principle.

“In fact, through the courts, we have already offered our ‘ready-made’ alternative dispute resolution process, that would have provided far quicker outcomes for students, but this was flatly rejected by the claimants’ lawyers.”

Matthew Patching, a partner at law firm Harcus Parker representing students, said: “With trial now fixed for 18 months’ time, UCL should focus on making a reasonable settlement proposal to the claimants rather than continuing to fight this claim through to the end.

“UCL moved almost all teaching online during Covid but refused to reduce students’ fees.

“Today’s important decision brings UCL students and our clients at more than 100 other universities one step closer to receiving fair compensation.”

The Student Group Claim said similar legal action was being prepared against more than 100 other UK universities, adding that solicitors have “been in correspondence” with more than 50 institutions.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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