Failed Newcastle University student facing £90k legal bill

Paul Crawford launched High Court legal action after failing the final year of his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree at Newcastle University by one mark

Paul Crawford
Paul Crawford

A student facing a crippling £90,000 legal bill has today issued a plea to university officials, begging “Please don’t bankrupt me.”

Paul Crawford launched High Court legal action after failing the final year of his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree at Newcastle University by one mark.

Despite claiming professors had breached their contract by failing to take an average of his marks, the UK’s top judges threw out his claim.

Now the 32-year-old says “one cannot get blood out of a stone” and has urged his professors not to pursue him for costs totalling £90,533.14.

He claims he has no assets, his parents are unable to foot the bill and he has racked up credit card debts totalling £6,500.

In a letter to Newcastle University solicitors, Mr Crawford claimed his failure had been down to a “momentary mistake” and urged the university not to pursue him for costs, claiming it “could look a somewhat vindictive course”.

In the open letter seen by The Journal, he wrote: “I do seriously ask the university to reflect whether, as an educational institution which claims to have a pastoral concern for the welfare of students, it wishes to be spending its money for the purpose only of inflicting bankruptcy on a student who is already left with the uncertainty of future consequent, because of the loss of access to the professional career to which he was aspiring. That could look a somewhat vindictive course.”

He added: “I should like to avoid the bitterness which is likely to accompany a continuation of court proceedings by the university.

“My wish is now to be able to draw a line under this whole affair. That is why I did not even apply for permission to appeal against the judgement.” Mr Crawford, who is originally from Kilburn, London, but now lives in Australia, began his studies on Tyneside in October 2005 and completed the first four stages of his degree with no problems.

But he failed his final year and, when he re-sat it in October 2011, was awarded a borderline fail.

It was then the talented sportsman - who was a member of the university’s basketball and hockey team - opted to launch legal action against the university and was granted a judicial review in the UK’s top court.

Mr Crawford - whose brother Jack Crawford became one of the first British players to join an NFL American football club in the USA in 2012 - made a string of appeals internally and to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

Mr Crawford’s barrister, Anthony Speaight QC, will today tell a High Court panel that he should not pay the costs because the university’s internal review process failed him and the university was in “breach of its duty to act fairly”.

It has also emerged Mr Crawford failed his degree after “one momentary mistake of mentioning confidential information” during a role play exam.

He claims students were never told this part of their studies - in which he gave away private information to an actress playing a grandmother about her grandaughter - was double-weighted.

In his letter, he wrote: “I was punished for my mistake, but it was the doubling of the mark that I was given that caused me to fail.

“Had the mark for my mistake not been counted twice, I would have achieved the grade obtained by the majority of the students on the course.”

Mr Speaight will today tell the High Court: “The claimant has now lost for ever the prospect of a career as a doctor, for which he had worked so long.”

Newcastle University declined to comment.

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