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Lawyers instructed over claims against universities following strike action

Lawyers announce they are investigating legal action on behalf of a potential group of students over the classes they were denied following the strike by academics over pensions

Posted on 20 March 2018

Lawyers for the students said that universities could be liable for claims from potentially hundreds of thousands of affected students totalling millions of pounds.

Chris Haan from the consumer rights team at Leigh Day said the firm was planning to act on behalf of a student group against the universities involved for breach of contract and under the Consumer Rights Act over missed teaching time with the possibility of each student being compensated for their missed lessons and the knock-on effects.

According to Leigh Day the claims could be worth as much as £1000 per student, depending on whether a university provides adequate replacement lessons and the effects on the individual student.

Universities want to change the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) from a defined-benefit scheme, which gives a guaranteed retirement income, to a defined-contribution scheme, where the pensions for lecturers would be subject to changes in the stock market.

Academics who are members of the University and College Union are angry at the proposed changes to their pensions, which they claim could leave them up to £10,000 a year worse off in retirement.

Lawyers at Leigh Day have stressed that the cases brought against the universities are not to undermine the striking lecturers, but rather to reimburse students who are expected to pay average tuition fees in excess of £9,000 per year for lessons which are not being provided by universities. The tuition fees paid by overseas students are higher.

Lawyers have urged universities to seek the earliest resolution to the dispute to ensure that students are not further inconvenienced by the strikes.

Chris Haan from the consumer rights team at Leigh Day said: “We would urge universities to settle this dispute quickly as they could be liable for a vast number of claims from students who have paid many thousands of pounds but who have, quite simply, not got what they paid for.

“Consumers who are not provided the services they were promised under a contract are protected by the law and we are currently investigating legal action on behalf of students from across the country.”

Cathy Olphin, a student at Lancaster University who has instructed Leigh Day said: “I am taking this legal action in order to get back the money I have spent via my student loan and not received tuition for. This is not a judgment on the strikes, it is just asking the university to compensate me for the lost teaching time.”