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Students, academic institutions and contracts - a ticking time bomb?

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Traditionally the courts have been reluctant to trespass too far on the sanctity of academic freedom, and have certainly not wished to be seen as final arbiters of academic decisions. It is doubtful whether anything in the fast changing world of higher education has yet changed enough to modify such reluctance. However, when the student/college relationship is viewed through the prism of 'service provision' very different conclusions may be reached. It seems very hard to deny that the agreement between an academic institution and a student is a contract, and (most obviously) a contract for the provision of educational services. If the advertised services are not provided, or are provided inadequately or incompletely then an action for breach of contract on behalf of the student(s) affected may lie. Moreover any generalised disclaimer on behalf of the academic institution may (now) fall foul of unfair contract terms legislation. In Education and the Law Vol 11 No. 2, 1999, Tim Birtwistle and Melissa Askew began the process of exploring such issues. This article will endeavour to examine in greater depth matters such as the formation of the student/college contract; claims for breach of contract and unfair contract terms.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09539960120046727

Affiliations: School of Law, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2001

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