What can international students do if they’ve been unfairly penalised by their UK university?


I am an international student and have been disciplined by my university for my attendance record. I believe there has been miscommunication that has caused this. What can I do? 

If you’re an international student, you’ll know that even at the best of times, studying in the UK can sometimes be a highly complicated experience, particularly if your first language is not English. Aside from the fact that you’re expected to follow your course and pass exams, you’re also expected to communicate about every aspect of your everyday life, all in a language that you’re still learning. It is almost inevitable that at some point during your studies, problems will arise that are based on language and communication difficulties.

Thankfully, in most cases these problems tend to be solved, if not easily, then without any particularly grave consequences. However, for those occasions when problems are not resolved and serious consequences that threaten your studies or your status as an international student arise, then Match Solicitors may be able to help you.

A wide range of potential difficulties…

Language and communication issues are so common for international students that every year our team of specialist education solicitors help hundreds of such students across a wide variety of circumstances. Whether the issue is one of attendance, the submission of assignments or even plagiarism, it’s hugely important that you defend yourself if you’ve been treated unfairly.

We know that many international students accept disciplinary measures handed down from university authorities because they don’t feel they have the right to complain or to challenge a decision that they feel is intrinsically unfair. It is therefore extremely important to remember that your status as an international student allows you exactly the same public law rights as any native UK student. 

How to challenge your university’s decision…

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly and that ultimately you have been disciplined or punished because of difficulties that stem from miscommunication rather than any poor behaviour on your part, then in the first instance you should speak with someone within your faculty, escalating the issue to the internal complaints procedure if it is not immediately resolved.

However, in the event that you have already engaged with your university’s complaints procedure and still feel that your problem has not been satisfactorily addressed, you will need to involve the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (the OIA). Note that you are only permitted to complain to the OIA once you have exhausted the university’s internal complaints protocol. Also, once you involve the OIA, it is completely your responsibility to present your case in as professional a manner as possible.

Get professional help…

Using experienced and knowledgeable education lawyers like Match Solicitors will mean they quickly grasp your situation and advise you as to the best course of action.

By contacting a legal expert well versed in student rights means you can discuss the details of your case in confidence. They can then assist you through what can often seem like a maze of complicated processes and procedures, and make sure that you get the fair treatment you deserve and to which, under UK law, you are fully entitled. Education lawyers can also help you to prepare and present your case if you’re being disciplined because of your attendance record, or you’re facing some other issue.


Salima Mawji is a director at Education Law specialists Match Solicitors, recognised as one of the UK’s leading lawyers in further and higher education. Described in Chambers UK as “very effective”, she has a very high success rate in internal university appeals. Salima regularly speaks at high-profile events and is a commentator for national media, most recently appearing on ITV’s Exposure: Undercover Colleges.