King’s College London terminates contract of lecturer who set up legal firm to help students challenge exam results
Daniel Sokol’s firm charges students between £500 and £1,000 for representing them
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 02 January 2014
A top university has terminated the contract of a lecturer who set up a business offering legal advice to students who wanted to challenge their exam results.
King’s College London has told Daniel Sokol, he will cease to be an honorary senior lecturer in medical ethics and law at the institution from the end of February.
At the centre of the row is Dr Sokol’s decision to set up a private company - Alpha Academic Appeals - which offers help to students with exam appeals, charging them between £500 and £1,000 for representing them.
The university said it was concerned that publicity for the company would suggest the college endorsed the company - which it did not.
It said that - following media publicity (in the Times Higher Education magazine) for his enterprise - it had “taken the decision to terminate Dr Sokol’s contract with three months’ notice in line with the terms and conditions of his honorary appointment”.
“Upon reading the letter one might have been forgiven for thinking I had set up a brothel for students with an endless supply of Class A drugs,” said Dr Sokol in a letter to the THE published on Thursday.
“The wisdom or otherwise of King’s decision is of no general interest but the attitude it reflects - the apparent distaste for students seeking paid legal help to appeal against university decisions they consider to be unfair - should be.”
He added; “There is a good reason why students who believe they have been unfairly treated turn to lawyers. They know that, by and large, they will get better representation.”
Dr Sokol said that he had advised 70 per cent of the students that had approached him that their case had poor prospects for success - and had not charged them.
However, universities’ academic and disciplinary decisions “can radically change students’ lives for the worse, affect entire families and shatter long-held dreams”, he added.
“They matter tremendously. In this David versus Goliath scenario, students need all the help they can get.”
KCL pointed out that students were able to access free, independent advice and representation through the Academic Advice Service offered by the King’s College London Students’ Union.
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