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Student loses claim for ‘poor’ teaching of India subject at Oxford

Faiz Siddiqui, who studied at Brasenose College and graduated from Oxford in 2000, claimed he was not admitted to Harvard for higher studies due to his lower overall mark.

world Updated: Feb 08, 2018 22:14 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Oxford University,student sues Oxford,Faiz Siddiqui
File photo of Oxford University.(File Photo)

In a rare case of its kind, a student who sued Oxford University for failing to get high marks in his degree allegedly due to inadequate teaching of a topic related to Indian history had his claim for £1 million dismissed by the high court on Wednesday.

Faiz Siddiqui, who studied at Brasenose College, graduated in 2000 but claimed that he was not admitted to Harvard for higher studies due to his lower overall mark, and that he was so depressed by the result he could not perform well in a law career.

He raised the issue of the quality of teaching in the final year of his BA in modern history on the paper “India, 1916-1934: Indigenous Politics and Imperial Control”, which covered the influence of Mahatma Gandhi and civil disobedience campaigns and British responses to them. It was taught by academic David Washbrook.

In a 63-page ruling, Justice David Foskett said he was not convinced the teaching was "negligently inadequate". Oxford had accepted there were fewer teaching staff available in the Michaelmas (autumn) term in 1999 due to staff being granted leave of absence, but denied teaching was "inadequate".

The judge accepted that Siddiqui had suffered severe depression, but he felt this could not be attributed to his degree result. He found there were other reasons beyond his bouts of depression to explain his failure to hold down the various jobs he had.

The judge concluded Siddique deserved "sympathy and understanding" but the claim "must be dismissed". He said the claimant "undoubtedly" felt he had not achieved the standards he set himself and hoped he could start using his intelligence to create a worthwhile future.

The judge further said: “(It) is to be hoped that he can re-focus, perhaps lower his expectations at least for the time being and start using his undoubted intelligence to create a worthwhile future for himself. However, those are matters upon which he will doubtless take advice.

“In this case, I have not been satisfied that the delivery of one particular feature of the claimant’s undergraduate degree course was inadequate or, in any event, that it had the consequences claimed for it.”

A spokesman for the university said: “The University of Oxford welcomes today’s judgement dismissing the claim by Mr Siddiqui. History has been studied and taught with distinction at Oxford for longer than at almost any other university and the quality and range of its history teaching and examining across the collegiate university has long been widely recognised.”

First Published: Feb 08, 2018 19:55 IST