Nwabueze v University of Law Ltd & Ors

[2020] EWCA Civ 1526, Bean, Asplin and Lewis LJJ

The Court of Appeal refused an appeal against a decision that an employment tribunal did not have jurisdiction to determine a claim brought against the respondent university in connection with the appellant’s experiences while studying for a Master of Laws in Professional Legal Practice. The tribunal had struck out the claim that the respondent, as a university, could be sued only in the county court. The appellant sought to proceed against the respondent as a “qualifying body” which could be sued in tribunal by virtue of ss 53 & 54 Equality Act 2010. The lower courts had ruled that the respondent was excluded from the ambit of ss53 & 54 by reason of 53(4) EqA which provided that “An authority or body is not a qualifications body in so far as … it is the governing body of an institution to which section 91 applies”, s91 in turn applying to “a university”, “any other institution within the higher education sector;” and “an institution within the further education sector.”
The appellant, who had been granted anonymity at the tribunal and EAT level, sought to argue inter alia that s91 EqA applied only to universities receiving HEFCE funding at the material time relevant to the issues at hand, the respondent not having been in receipt of such funding. He also relied on the decision of the Court of Appeal in Burke v College of Law and Solicitors Regulation Authority [2012] EWCA Civ 37 in which s53 EqA had been applied to the respondent’s predecessor institution. The Court of Appeal, having ruled that the appellant was not entitled to anonymity on the basis (Curless v Shell International Ltd [2020] ICR 431, [2019] EWCA Civ 1710) that such was appropriate only in “an exceptional case, established on clear and cogent grounds” not here established, went on to reject his appeal. The point about jurisdiction appeared not to have been taken in Burke which in any event was brought under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 rather than the EqA.

 

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