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higher education

Recent years have seen a huge increase in the demand for degrees, the number of places offered to students and an increase in the numbers of skilled graduates within the UK. The change in the economic climate has not only affected the ability of universities to offer places and improve services but has also impacted upon the chances of employment and prosperity for its students. Internationally, UK universities have been able to expand their services beyond Europe to the US and across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Post Brexit, this trend is expected to continue.

Universities are facing an array of challenges as well as diverse opportunities. To overcome these challenges, universities must be commercially astute and strategically managed. As a commercial firm with an education specialism, we have the resources to help higher education clients to realise their strategic objectives and resolve their operational issues with integrated and properly managed solutions.  We often become involved in project planning, management and delivery.

We act for a number of universities on a range of projects including campus developments, estate rationalisation, corporate structuring, spin-outs, venture-capital, banking and finance. The diverse nature of our experience allows us to provide effective and pragmatic advice across all areas affecting higher education institutions.  Our commercial experience means that you can avoid the common pitfalls and difficulties often encountered when dealing with commercial organisations.


Case studies


We have a long standing working relationship with a number of HE clients.  Some of these working relationships go back decades and others are more recent and specific, such as dealing with student complaints.  Recent examples of work include:

Student Discrimination Claim

  • Representing a University to defend a County Court claim made by a student who claimed that reasonable adjustments had not been made to reduce disadvantages which he had faced due to disability.  The adjustments related to both campus conditions and a process of assessment.  The dispute was strategically important for the University from a public relations point of view and we helped to secure a settlement which was economically advantageous to the University before any publicity was generated.  We found a pragmatic solution before significant costs were incurred.

University Refinance

  • Advising on the legal aspects of the £6.5million refurbishment of part of a University Campus.  The redevelopment was designed to improve the University’s facilities whilst also helping with carbon reduction targets. It involved improvements to building infrastructure, heating and lighting and the installation of a new roof and windows.  We prepared a letter of intent to instruct the Contractor and to enable preliminary works.  We also drafted and agreed a JCT Design and Build contract, warranties, bespoke professional appointments and design contracts.  Our client relied upon us to manage the major commercial risks and renegotiate on their behalf.

Student Complaints

  • Providing strategic advice in relation to diverse student complaints including advice on procedural compliance, referrals to the Office of Independent Adjudicator and assistance with a judicial review on a long running and complex student complaint regarding a fitness to practice panel decision.  This matter also involved advising on (and responding to) a defamation issue regarding comments published by the Student in the public domain.  We managed all aspects of this difficult matter to a successful conclusion.
 

Contacts


Christopher Graham | Partner

Email:
christopher.graham@watsonburton.com
Tel:
0345 901 2033