Oxford student 'did not declare failure'

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The Independent Online

A student who is suing Oxford University for racial discrimination exaggerated his academic abilities when he applied for the course, the university's lawyers said yesterday.

Nadeem Ahmed, 31, is taking legal action against the university after he failed an examination while studying for a master's degree in medieval Arabic philosophy in June 1999.

Mr Ahmed claims the exam was flawed as he, an experienced Arabic language student, had been told he had failed while a white, female student with no experience of Arabic passed.

John Bowers QC, for the university, told Reading County Court Mr Ahmed was not as strong a student of Arabic as he had made out.

Mr Ahmed, who is of Indian-Pakistani origin, achieved a 2:1 honours degree in religious studies with Urdu from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1993. But Mr Bowers said he failed to declare he had started a degree in Arabic and Persian the previous year and had quit after failing exams on Arabic texts and elementary language.

Mr Ahmed said he had not thought it necessary to declare that he had started the earlier course. But Mr Bowers responded: "I tell you why I think it is, it was to give the impression that you have a greater understanding of Arabic than in fact you did. I suggest that you have exaggerated your ability in Arabic."

Mr Ahmed believed he had a good enough understanding of the language to get him through his degree. But after the exam failure in 1999, he was told he would not be able to go on to study for a doctorate in philosophy at the university.

Mr Ahmed's case is supported by his tutor, Tom Paulin, the poet and BBC2 arts reviewer who is expected to give evidence. The case continues.