A High Court judge has warned students who think university courses were not value for money about the dangers of taking legal action in the hope of getting compensation.
Mr Justice Foskett says the quality of education will undoubtedly come under greater scrutiny as students run up debt.
But the judge says litigation is costly and “fraught with difficulty”.
He issued a note of caution after throwing out a damages claim by an Oxford University graduate who complained “negligently inadequate teaching” nearly 20 years ago had affected his degree grade and had a “marked deleterious effect” on his subsequent career.
The judge ruled against Faiz Siddiqui, of Bayswater, west London, after deciding that the “delivery” of part of a history course in 1999-2000 was not “negligently inadequate”.
Mr Justice Foskett said: “Whilst it cannot be said that some aspect of a person’s education – inadequately delivered – can never be the cause of that person’s failure to achieve some otherwise attainable objective, the hurdles in establishing a claim for compensation based upon that inadequate delivery are great and often insurmountable.
“In this case, I have not been satisfied that the delivery of one particular feature of the claimant’s undergraduate degree course was inadequate or, in any event, that it had the consequences claimed for it.”
He added: “That said, in the present climate, some 17 years on from the material events in this case, when students are incurring substantial debts to pursue their university education, the quality of the education delivered will undoubtedly come under even greater scrutiny than it did in the past.
“There may be some rare cases where some claim for compensation for the inadequacy of the tuition provided may succeed, but it is hardly the ideal way of achieving redress.
“Litigation is costly, time and emotion-consuming and runs the significant risk of failure, particularly in this area where establishing a causative link between the quality of teaching and any alleged ‘injury’ is fraught with difficulty.
“There must be a better way of dealing with this kind of issue if it cannot be resolved by the individual concerned simply accepting what has happened and finding a positive way forward.”
Mr Justice Foskett published a ruling on Wednesday after analysing Mr Siddiqui’s claim at a High Court trial in London in November.
The “Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford” had disputed the claim and said it should be dismissed.
In his ruling, the judge explains how Mr Siddiqui, who was 39 at the time of the trial and obtained a 2:1 after studying at Brasenose College, had worked for a number of law firms after leaving university.
Mr Siddiqui said he would have gone on to become an international commercial lawyer if he had obtained a First.