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Suing Oxford University

May 25, 2017
hertford bridge side window wm trimmed

Oxford University

Faiz Siddiqui, a former student of Brazenose College, Oxford, is suing Oxford University because “negligent teaching” caused him to underachieve in his final exams, damaging his subsequent career. I can sympathise.

Mr. Siddiqui was awarded a second class degree, when he expected a first. I left Oxford with an unclassified degree, when I might reasonably have expected a first. The letter from Hertford College stating my finals results admits as much. “With your ability you should have been at the other end of the school” it says, and “things conspired to cause you to do much less well than you should.” It doesn’t say to what extent Hertford College caused or could have prevented those circumstances.

Staff at Hertford College may have perceived it to be in their interests to neglect my academic progress. The only other chemistry student in my year, awarded the college’s only chemistry scholarship, was the son of one of Oxford University’s own chemistry professors. How would the Professor have reacted if the son underachieved and I didn’t?

I didn’t know until recently that other Oxford University colleges threatened to expel Hertford College from their common system because of its student recruitment policies (the Tanner Scheme). Hertford claims on its website that “Hertford’s initiative challenged the status quo and was unpopular with vested interests”, but I believe it was unethical. Hertford’s student recruitment depended on encouraging state school headmasters to bully or otherwise persuade students to apply for admission to Hertford straight from school. Today many academic institutions encourage students to take a gap year. Instead my own school headmaster behaved weirdly and inappropriately and caused me to believe he could be vindictive if he didn’t get what he wanted, encouraged I believe by Hertford College.

Neither Hertford College nor my Warrington state school told me that Hertford’s recruitment methods were anything but traditional. My father’s education ended at age fourteen, my mother’s at twelve, they couldn’t advise me.

Giles Coren wrote of Faiz Siddiqui “If you want to be taught and pass exams and become a lawyer, don’t you go to a red brick? Or Cambridge? Oxford is for drinking and playing tennis and nicking books out of the Bod under your cricket jumper and lobbing them at punting tourists from Magdalen Bridge.” It’s a pity for me he wasn’t around to advise me. If I had taken the year out, which I wanted, no doubt I would eventually have gone to Manchester or Cambridge.

Almost ten years after I left Oxford University, a senior manager at TSB Bank, where I was employed, told me I couldn’t be promoted on an already restricted career path, commenting “you had trouble at university, didn’t you?” Those people who say your university record doesn’t matter after ten years are not telling the truth.

Hertford College cheated me out of the career my A-level grade “A”s deserved. I’d be happier and more successful in a career and in my relationships, and I’d have avoided much unpleasantness, but for Hertford College, Oxford.

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