Legal challenges to university decisions affecting students in Australian courts and tribunals

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Melbourne University Law Review, 2010, 34 (1), pp. 140 - 180
Issue Date:
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In an era of increased accountability, decisions that adversely affect university students are more open to internal and judicial scrutiny. This article considers student challenges to university decisions in the context of universities as public bodies. It begins with extrajudicial processes such as the University Visitor, parliamentary Ombudsmen and internal university Ombudsmen. It then provides a comprehensive analysis of litigation in Australia between students and universities in which students have challenged decisions about admission, course content, assessment, academic progress and both academic and non-academic misconduct. Australian courts and tribunals have accepted jurisdiction in certain circumstances but student-university litigation has generally been unsuccessful for the students either on technical jurisdictional grounds or on the facts. Judicial consideration of university decisions and administrative processes has provided some guidance that may assist in the formulation of improved internal processes, particularly relating to the resolution of complaints and appeals. This article argues that the diverse range of courts and tribunals currently used by students are inappropriate and inefficient and considers whether the time is right for serious consideration to be given to the establishment of a dedicated dispute resolution body for the Australian higher education sector.
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