Student, 33, vows to take his fight to sue University of South Wales for £200,000 to the High Court

Daily Mail Online 2 weeks ago

A student who has spent 'thousands' of pounds trying to sue his university over his degree grade will take his legal battle to the highest court in the UK.

Umer Riaz, 33, tried to get £200,000 in damages from the University of South Wales after receiving a pass grade in 2016.

He claimed the university was unreasonable for not giving him the opportunity to continue his studies by completing outstanding modules, so he could get an honours degree.

The claim was struck out of county court in Cardiff on Thursday after Mr Riaz was described as having 'no prospect of success' by the university. 

Umer Riaz, 33, tried to get £200,000 in damages from the University of South Wales after receiving a pass grade in 2016, claiming he was not allowed to complete outstanding modules
Umer Riaz, 33, tried to get £200,000 in damages from the University of South Wales after receiving a pass grade in 2016, claiming he was not allowed to complete outstanding modules

Mr Riaz, who came to Cardiff to study from Islamabad, Pakistan and received the equivalent of a third class degree, said: 'I'm going to fight this even if I have to take it higher, even to the UN.

'I'm very, very keen that I take it as high as I can.'

A spokeswoman for the University of South Wales said all processes were followed 'fairly and accurately'.

Mr Riaz, who came to Cardiff to study from Islamabad, Pakistan, received the equivalent of a third class degree
Mr Riaz, who came to Cardiff to study from Islamabad, Pakistan, received the equivalent of a third class degree

Mr Riaz started his BSc hons chemistry degree in 2011 but re-sat his first year after failing to get the credits needed.

In 2014, after suffering from poor health, the student said he 'suffered a fall' on site, causing his second year modules to be deferred until the next year.

As a result, Mr Riaz did not cover enough credits for an honours degree, and reached the maximum registration period for his course. 

In a claim brought against the university, the international student described its decision not to take allow him to take outstanding modules as 'unreasonable'.

But the university said Mr Riaz's claim failed to highlight 'any cause of action' and that arguments of 'unreasonableness' did not fall under the court's jurisdiction.

Mr Riaz, who represented himself, said: 'I was quite good at my studies and I passed my English courses back home.

'I was the youngest and my family wanted to give me the opportunity for higher study. My parents are illiterate, they didn't go to school.'

Mr Riaz started his BSc hons chemistry degree in 2011 but re-sat his first year after failing to get the credits needed
Mr Riaz started his BSc hons chemistry degree in 2011 but re-sat his first year after failing to get the credits needed

He added: 'A pass doesn't mean anything to me. Having a pass degree is not going to help me to get anything.

'I wanted to do a PhD in organic chemistry. I was in my final year starting to apply for jobs in Europe, in the Middle East and do further studies.

'I had a couple of emails from Italy and Germany. They said were were impressed by my approach but unfortunately I do not have enough credits.

'If I had an honours degree I would have been smashing it. I would have been working in decent places like my other colleagues.'

After launching an unsuccessful internal complaint to the university, Mr Riaz took his fight to the Office of Independent Adjudicator (OIA) - an independent review body. 

In 2018, he was told his complaint was dismissed.

Mr Riaz also sought a judicial review of the OIA's decision, which was unsuccessful, and has now launched an appeal with the Court of Appeals.

He said: 'I have wasted 10 months to get to this stage. Everyone knew what I was claiming. They should have said in the first place [there was no jurisdiction].'

'I'm going to take it to the High Court now.' 

As an international student, Mr Riaz said each year of university cost him about £10,000.

But he said his grade has also stopped him from getting a job in his chosen field since his graduation.

Mr Riaz, who must pay thousands in legal fees after his court claim failed, said: 'It's been very stressful. I went through trauma, I went through illness.

'My mum cries a lot, she cries too much. Back home when you go to court you have police around you so she is worried about me. I talk to her every day and tell her I'm fine.

'My brother is supporting me with accommodation and food.'

He added: 'Before I didn't know what the word 'sue' meant. I'm on medication, I'm stressed.

'I went step by step with every internal process and every external process with the High Court and Court of Appeals.

'Step by step I've come to this point.

'This happens for a reason so you better build yourself up and put your chin up for the next event.

The University of South Wales in Cardiff. MR Riaz said that each year of university cost him £10,000
The University of South Wales in Cardiff. MR Riaz said that each year of university cost him £10,000

'I don't want to have any regrets a couple of years down the line.'

Ahead of Thursday's hearing, a skeleton argument by Ben Mitchell, for the University of South Wales, said: 'The claimant has not particularised any cause of action. The [Particulars of Claim (PoC)] consists of a long narrative, followed by an extract of passages from the claimant's unsuccessful application for judicial review against the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

'At no point in the PoC does the claimant identify a cause of action. 

'His claim should be struck out as a result.

'As an administrative law ground, the court has no jurisdiction over the allegation of unreasonableness. 

'This is simply an attempt by the claimant to re-litigate his previously unsuccessful judicial review claim against the OIA.'

A spokeswoman for the University of South Wales said: 'We take all complaints seriously and are keen to uphold our rigorous standards. 

'All of our processes have been followed fairly and accurately, and this has been reflected by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. As there may be further legal action, it is not possible to comment further.' 

Mr Riaz's action is the latest case of graduates suing their universities. 

Pok Wong, 30, received an out-of-court settlement worth £61,000 after complaining that Anglia Ruskin University 'fraudulently misrepresented' a business course for which she enrolled in 2011.

Ms Wong graduated with a first-class degree in international business strategy in 2013 but felt claims in the university's prospectus that it was a 'renowned centre of excellence' that offered a 'high quality of teaching' were untrue. 

However, an Oxford graduate who tried to sue the university for 'appallingly bad' teaching that cost him a top degree and lucrative legal career had his £1million compensation claim thrown out.  

Faiz Siddiqui, 39, was told by a High Court judge the tuition he received at Brazenose College was of a 'perfectly adequate standard' and his failure to get a first class degree was more likely to do with a severe bout of hay fever. 


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