A Doctrinal Analysis of the Academic Judgment Immunity within Higher Education in England

Perlen, Trish and Ashwin, Paul (2023) A Doctrinal Analysis of the Academic Judgment Immunity within Higher Education in England. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

[thumbnail of 2022perlenphd]
Text (2022perlenphd)
2022perlenphd.pdf - Published Version

Download (1MB)


In England, decisions involving matters of academic judgment are the only type of university decision provided with legal immunity. However, adverse academic decisions with respect to assessment can have long-lasting impacts upon students. A significant issue with respect to the academic judgment immunity is that it is opaque. No singular legal definition or legal test exists despite being applied by the judiciary for centuries and subsequently codified into legislation. Further, academic judgment is a core component of academic decision-making in the university context but remains an elusive concept in higher education research. To define what academic judgment encompasses, the doctrinal research methodology was applied to analyse 76 cases and to interpret relevant legislation. To avoid a highly theoretical outcome, higher education literature was utilised to establish where academic judgment resides in the university context. The outcomes of this thesis have provided several significant original contributions to knowledge including articulating the scope of the academic judgment immunity in the university context, defining the scope of the academic judgment immunity in the legal context, developing a common law and legislative definition of academic judgment, and explaining the importance of following prescribed university policies and procedures. A further significant outcome, and original contribution of this thesis, was the determination that while decisions made with respect to a student’s final assessment result were protected by the academic judgment immunity this did not extend to decisions made with respect to the assessment process. It was determined that a student can challenge a university decision, even when it touches upon matters of academic judgment, where it can be evidenced that a university has failed to follow its own internal assessment processes and procedures or, where there is an element of unfairness in the decision-making process.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
16 Oct 2023 11:30
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:05