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Case involving possible criminal proceedings - PI021702

University of Surrey

A student at the University of Surrey complained to us following her appeal against the process and outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

The student was one of two students who were disciplined by the University following an altercation between them. The student who complained to us was found guilty by the University of the use of offensive language prior to the altercation. She was injured in the incident and the police were called and carried out an investigation.

We decided that one aspect of the complaint was Justified. The student had requested information about the outcome of disciplinary proceedings against the other student and in particular to be told if the other student had been expelled from the campus. The University declined to provide this information, citing data protection law. However, it could not demonstrate that it considered departing from its usual practice of keeping such information confidential, whether medical evidence about the impact on the first student’s mental health indicated that some disclosure would be appropriate, or whether it should ask the other student’s permission to disclose the information. Nor did the University explain to the first student why it had decided not to disclose the information to her.

We concluded that this was not reasonable in the circumstances of the case. We recommended that the University apologise and pay compensation for distress and inconvenience.