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Claim brought by 5,000 students against UCL will go to trial after settlement talks fail

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A group action against the University College London (UCL) over Covid-19 and strike-related disruptions will proceed to the High Court after settlement talks break down.

A lawsuit brought by 5,000 students from UCL argues that the university breached its contract with them between 2018 and 2022 during lecturer strikes and Covid-related closures.

Their argument is there was a material difference between what students paid for and what they actually received.

Last May, the case went in front of Senior Master Fontaine after the London-based university applied to stay the proceedings until the claimants complete an internal complaint to UCL and an external complaint to the Ombudsman.

Senior Master Fontaine did ‘stay’ the proceedings, however, she encouraged the parties to engage in settlement discussions.

It has been revealed that these talks between the students and UCL took place during January 2024 but it did not lead to agreement.

The group claim will therefore continue to trial. The next step is for the court to hold a case management hearing at which the judge will lay down a timetable towards trial and fix a trial date.

There are similar claims being prepared against more than 80 other UK universities. To date 17 other UK universities have been sent letters before action, including LSE, King’s College London, Imperial College London and the Universities of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Warwick and Cardiff.

Commenting on the news, one of the claimant lawyers, Matthew Patching, partner at Harcus Parker said: “Our clients went into settlement talks with an open mind; it is a shame that agreement was not reached, but the door remains open for settlement at a fair level for students. If the claim is not settled, it will continue to trial, we hope without further delay.”

UCL was contacted for a comment.

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