Last week, Mr Justice Foskett ruled that Oxford University was not at fault for Faiz Siddiqui not graduating with a first-degree mark.
Siddiqui sued the university in 2017 for his low mark obtained in 2000. He obtained a ‘CB’ which equated to 50% to one of the seven papers he took for his finals for a BA in Modern History. He ascribed the low mark to negligent inadequate teaching and/or to the failure of his personal tutor to alert the examination authorities to his “insomnia, depression, and anxiety”.
The consequences of these were that he achieved a low Upper Second degree rather than a First or high Upper Second and that this level was inadequate for him to enter a top US Law College. Further, he claimed the “shattering blow” of the result caused him serious mental health difficulties, such that he was unable to hold down jobs with leading solicitors and a firm of accountants.
Although it was not disputed that during the term Siddiqui was being taught there was fewer teaching staff available, there was a Professor who took over the load adequately. He was “an excellent teacher” who “put his shoulder to the wheel” and delivered the course in much the same way as he usually taught it. In fact, Siddiqui scored a ‘BA’ which equated to 70% in a mock examination, suggesting the teacher was at least of a reasonable standard and that the student was well-prepared for the exam.
Justice Foskett concluded that the poor result was more likely due to various reasons outside of the teaching quality, such as inadequate preparation by the Claimant, lack of academic discipline, and a severe hay fever episode. Siddiqui also exhibited general anxiety about taking examinations over many years, which likely affected his performance too.
The Claimant had “suffered intermittent bouts of severe depression over the years for which he is entitled to sympathy and understanding”, but it could not be demonstrated that it was due to this one examination result. There was no evidence that he suffered from “insomnia, depression, and anxiety” at the time of his final exams, as there were no medical records of this at the time, but the complaint of hay fever was alerted to the examining authorities.