When the "right questions" don't come up...

The Court of Appeal in London recently considered a case where a post-graduate law student felt he was being picked on by his teachers.

The Appellant undertook a Master of Laws degree in Professional Legal Practice with the Respondent in 2017.  During his studies, he claimed that members of the Respondent’s staff discriminated against him. It was alleged that he had been the victim of discrimination amounting to persecution and he accordingly issued proceedings before the Employment Tribunal.

The Respondent contended that it was, as its name suggests, a university. This being the case, the appropriate forum for any grievance would be the County Court rather than an Employment Tribunal.

The Appellant brought his grievance to an Employment Tribunal, nonetheless. The claim was struck out for want of jurisdiction. 

He appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.  That appeal was dismissed as “there was no reasonably arguable question of law raised by the appeal”.

Leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal was granted on the effect specific wording under the Equality Act 2010.  In essence, was the Respondent a “university” if it was not publicly funded? 

The Court of Appeal was satisfied that the University was a “university” irrespective of how it was funded.  Accordingly, the Employment Tribunals were correct in concluding that they did not have jurisdiction.   

The clear effect of [the legislation] in my view is that if a body is a governing body of a university this displaces its status as a qualification body. It follows that the Appellant’s claim could only be brought in the county court and that the [Employment Tribunal] has no jurisdiction

Lord Justice Bean

The Applicant’s claim was dismissed, and he was ordered to pay costs of £5000.  

The nature and extent of his grievances have gone unaired. It is unclear as to whether these included the quality of teaching.  That the claim was pursued, and continued to be pursued, before the wrong forum may raise some questions.  Of course, the corollary may be that the case would have taken this route regardless.

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Boardroom Group FC Law
Nwabueze v University of Law Ltd & Ors [2020] EWCA Civ 1526

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