University Disciplinary Investigations
Students at universities who are accused of wrongdoing can be investigated by their university. The process involved can vary significantly from university to university. Most universities have detailed policies in place regarding discipline investigations, but some do not.
What type of allegation will the university investigate?
Where a complaint has been made about a student, the university can investigate the allegation. Where serious enough, virtually any type of misconduct could be investigated including serious, criminal allegations.
What is the procedure for investigations?
Each university will have its own policy (or practice, where there is no formal policy) for conducting investigations – there is no ‘standard’ approach. There is significant variation between universities regarding who investigates the misconduct and the potential penalties if the misconduct is proved. There are often similarities, however, between institutions.
Typically, the university will hold an interview or hearing at which the person being investigated can give their version of events.
Some universities do not allow students to attend the hearings with a lawyer, although a lawyer could, in theory, assist the student with preparation for the hearing.
If I am accused of a crime, will the police be involved?
The general principles are that anyone can report a crime, although there is no legal obligation to do so (except in specific circumstances relating to money laundering and terrorist offences). No one can prevent anyone else from reporting a crime.
A second consideration relates to who the ‘victim’ of the alleged wrongdoing is. The university itself may be the victim of certain offences (criminal damage or theft, for example). In those circumstances, the university could report the matter to the police. If the victim of the alleged wrongdoing is a person (another student, for example) then while a member of university staff could report the offence to the police, it is more likely that this decision will be left to the victim.
Where the police become involved in an allegation, universities often suspend their own investigations pending the outcome of the police investigation or subsequent criminal proceedings. Whether this happens or not will depend on the university’s policy.
Our success stories
We recently represented a young student at a London university, accused of wrongdoing. He was invited to attend a hearing with members of the university’s staff at which he was asked questions about the allegation. We were permitted to represent him at this hearing and assisted him with giving evidence. The university took no further action and our client went on to complete his studies.
How we can help
If you have been asked to attend a university discipline investigation, you can contact our Crime and Regulatory department on 020 7632 4300.
We can advise on your university’s discipline policy (if it has one) and may be able to represent you at any discipline interviews / hearings. You can also contact us if you are being investigated by the police.