Medical student seeks judicial review: Clinical placement year concerns

In King v University of Notre Dame [2015] NSWSC 309, the plaintiff student had enrolled in the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery degree at the University of Notre Dame in 2008. She had previously studied law and was awarded a law degree.

She withdrew from the Notre Dame medical program in 2008 and was later readmitted in 2013 as a first year student. The student failed her first year as a result of her final grade in Foundations of Medical Vocation. She was unsuccessful in relation to appeals provided under the University’s Regulations and, as a result, commenced the court proceedings for a judicial review.

Pending the outcome, the student was allowed to start her next year of study,  but also failed that course. She lodged an internal appeal which was unsuccessful. As a result of the two failures the student was terminated from the University.

The issue were complex but the allegations included disability discrimination, the subjective nature of the grading process and bias on the part of her supervising doctor.

In the current proceedings the student wished to be allowed to start third year, pending determination of her complaints about the first and second year results. At [79] the court noted:

The University says that it has obligations to help service providers who allow students from the University to attend their clinical facilities to ensure that its students are fit to undertake the tasks required for the placements. It says that the University is unable to protect itself against the risk of harm to patients at the clinical placement at which its students are placed. The University would be required to inform the health service providers of the Plaintiff’s academic status at the University to allow them to make an informed decision about permitting the Plaintiff to carry out her clinical placements at facilities, and that this has the potential to harm the University’s relationship with those health service providers and poses a risk to the University’s academic and professional reputation.

The application for such an interlocutory injunction (such that she might start third year) was refused.