R (Mustafa) v Office of the Independent Adjudicator

28 May 2013

Judgment was handed down in R (Mustafa) v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2013] EWHC 1379 (Admin) on 23 May 2013.

The question for the Court was whether the finding of plagiarism by a university was necessarily a matter of academic judgment. The reason why this question is important is that any complaint, to the extent it involves academic judgment, is outside the jurisdiction of the OIA. The OIA argued that any finding of plagiarism, even a mechanical one, involved questions of academic judgment.

Males J accepted the proposition that not every question of plagiarism involves academic judgment, citing the example of an essay that has been wholesale copied off the internet. However, on the facts of the Claimant’s case, the finding of plagiarism by the university did involve academic judgment and therefore the OIA’s refusal to look at the complaint was lawful.

The judge also made a general comment on jurisdiction where a criterion acts as a complete bar to an adjudicative body’s powers:

“Mr Lawson submitted that the exclusion should be narrowly construed, as it represents an exclusion from what is intended to be a broad and general scheme to deal with complaints… In my judgment there is force in these submissions, but it is unnecessary to decide in this case how far they should be accepted.”

The effect of the Judgment is that, in a case of alleged plagiarism, the OIA will at least have to consider whether that finding involves academic judgment in deciding whether it has jurisdiction to look at the complaint.
David Lawson and Leon Glenister, instructed by Amara Ahmad of Fisher Meredith, acted on behalf of the Claimant.

For further information, please refer to the judgment in R (Mustafa) v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2013] EWHC 1379 (Admin).


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