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Fitness to Practise

Contact our specialist education law solicitors today to see how we can help you.  Speak to one of our team on 01633 240743 or click the ‘Contact us’ button to send us an email and one of our lawyers will call you back at a time to suit you.

What can we do to help?

Watkins & Gunn’s university solicitors are committed to advise, assist and represent students who are up against allegations from their university. Our fitness to practise solicitors are dedicated to assisting students on professional courses who are facing serious allegations that may jeopardise your future career prospects and landing your dream job.

What are fitness to practise proceedings?

If you are enrolled on a professional course, the term ‘fitness to practise’ relates to a student’s ability to meet the required professional standards. A professional body may require certain skills, knowledge and character to ensure that a student is in fact fit to practise in that profession. Universities will have professional obligations to ensure that students meet these requirements and also to ensure that students do not breach the professional standards.

There are a number of ways in which a student may be found in breach of a university’s code of conduct or regulations. A breach of these codes or regulations can result in disciplinary action and the sanctions will depend on the respective disciplinary procedures.

However, if a student is undertaking a professional qualification (e.g. Medicine, Law, Dentistry), they may also be accused of acting in a way that is contrary to the applicable professional codes – in other words, whether this conduct deems you ‘fit to practise’. If you are facing allegations of a breach of the professional standards, you may be subject to a detailed investigations which could result in being unable to practise in your dream job.

Unlike a standard non-academic misconduct case, if a student is in breach of the professional codes, it can result in you being excluded from the course and deemed unfit to practise.

Our university solicitors therefore appreciate that any responses or appeals need to be robust to ensure that you can get back on track with your studies to obtain your dream job.

How do I respond to fitness to practise allegations?

Each university will have their own internal process, but the first stage in the process will usually involve a member of staff at the university investigating the alleged breaches. The investigator will then usually prepare a report and documentation to consider whether or not a formal case should be brought against a student. If a formal case is brought, you will be asked to respond and a fitness to practise hearing or panel may be convened.

If the allegations are serious, the investigating officer may provide detailed allegations, references to numerous internal policies and extensive documentation. Our university appeal solicitors are experienced practitioners who have assisted with numerous fitness to practise cases. The education law team at Watkins & Gunn can help you provide a clear, concise and robust response to give you the best possible chance of success.

If you are facing fitness to practise proceedings, it is essential to get it right from the very beginning. Putting forward a strong case from the beginning may avoid a hearing being convened, avoid the need to appeal the decision or to raise a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA).

Fitness to Practise hearings and sanctions

If the university believe that a case should be formally considered, a panel or hearing may be arranged. Prior to a fitness to practise hearing, a student will usually be provided the opportunity to review all documentation and respond to the allegations in writing. However, you may still be expected to attend a panel hearing to present your case and to respond to any questions the panel may have for you.

Our university solicitors are experienced advocates and can help you present your submissions on the day of the hearing. Many universities may not permit a legally qualified individual to attend a hearing. If you are not permitted to bring one of our university solicitors to the hearing with you, our higher education lawyers can help in preparing a written statement and also arrange a conference with you to prepare you for the hearing on the day. Obtaining specialist advice and assistance before the hearing will ensure that you are fully prepared to present your case to the panel.

Unlike allegations of non-academic misconduct, fitness to practise hearings can result in a finding that you are ‘not fit to practise’. If a panel did find that you are not fit to practise, this can result in not only being excluded from your course, but can also limit your ability to study at another university. This of course may limit your ability to obtain your dream profession as a doctor, lawyer, nurse etc.

Our dedicated education law specialists can assist you in responding to any allegations made by your university and can also provide representation on the day of the hearing. Our higher education lawyers are experienced specialists who are dedicated to providing you the best possible advice and assistance.

How can I appeal against a Fitness to Practise decision?

If you are found to be unfit to practise, then there will usually be a right to appeal or request a review this decision. The grounds of appeal or review will be determined by the university’s own internal rules, so it is important to seek advice from one of our higher education law solicitors to advise you whether there are potential grounds to challenge the outcome.

University law and higher education law can be complex and these proceedings may result in you being unable to practise in your dream profession. Our dedicated education law team can help you in providing impartial advice, robust responses and attend hearings where permitted.

If you have appealed and the outcome is still negative, you  will then be able to make a complaint for an external independent review to the OIA. Our higher education lawyers can also help you to draft a robust complaint to the OIA – see more about the OIA complaints process here.

Why use a University Law Solicitor?

Our fitness to practise solicitors can help you each step of the process. Higher education law can be complex, but our university solicitors are experienced education lawyers who are passionate about assisting students. Our higher education lawyers understand that students will have a dream career that they have worked very hard to achieve and we are here to help you to get back on track to achieve your dreams.

Please contact us on 01633 240743 or by e-mail to discuss how our university law solicitors can help you.

We offer an initial free consultation during which we will explain (a) how we can help and (b) provide an estimate of costs.