Disputes in British Universities

Brent Allen, Durham University

To outline very briefly, I attended Durham University from Oct 1998 to May 2004 toward a PhD in Political Science. I paid out-of-state fees for three years at a rate approximately three times what EU students do. However, two years into the contract the official advisor, Prof. Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, left Durham for promotion and a pay rise at Sheffield. No other advisor was appointed; hence, I had no advisor for the rest of the period. The university still took my monies in the third year for no real service.

I did complete the entire PhD and submitted it three times in 2004. I have kept the receipts. However, they never gave me a reply in spite of all the offices I wrote to and went to in person. I had to petition the local MP, Alan Milburn, for them to finally state their position in writing. I can send you that letter if you wish to see it. The essence of the statement was simply abdication of responsibility: “Since we have no one here any longer to read this paper, we do not feel you pass”. They listed about six reasons for not passing me, but all these were very flimsy and quite easily refuted. It only demonstrated that they never even looked at the paper, which they fully admitted. However, three other professionals at other institutions have recently read this paper and said it fully met all the requirements, contrary to their view.

More to the point of your website, the issue rests on two critical occurrences. First, the advisor left as a matter of course since she has been “jumping” universities frequently over the last 15 years, now being at her third after Durham. She is now at Hull as head of my former department there. She refuses to speak with me and Durham does not acknowledge her as part of this issue any more. Secondly, the Politics Department was slated for possible closure in 2003 for “not meeting academic standards over time”. It has since been amalgamated with the Middle Eastern Studies Department, also slated for possible closure, and reformed into the School of Government.

I have been legally advised that Durham is liable of “breach of contract, misappropriation of monies, and fraudulent representation”. This ought not be a standard of such a highly regarded institution, but it does seem to be the case.

I have gone through the proper channels and it has taken years of work. I wrote them back recently but their position remains the same one of intransigence. I have large and very expensive student loans to repay, but I am unable to get the career to pay them back.

I have put forth enough work, energy, time, effort and suffering to give up.