Graduate receives £61,000 over ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ claim
Pok Wong reaches out-of-court settlement with Anglia Ruskin university after suing for false advertising
A graduate who sued her university over her “Mickey Mouse degree” and received a £61,000 out-of-court settlement has said she is not celebrating, and that the amount barely covers her costs, tuition fees and the time spent fighting the protracted battle.
Pok Wong, 30, graduated with a first in international business strategy from Anglia Ruskin University in 2013, but subsequently sued them for false advertising and disputed their claim to offer “high-quality” teaching.
She has warned that universities should be careful about what they say in prospectuses, claiming there was a shortage of teachers at the institution, and that resources were reused in various classes, while business rules and concepts were poorly explained in un-stimulating lectures. She also alleged that contact time was suddenly cut mid-course.】
“I raised my complaints with the university but they didn’t do anything, they said I was the only student who complained so perhaps that was my own issue,” she told the Guardian. “I had no way to complain, but there were a lot of students who were not happy.”
Wong, also known as Fiona, said that some universities in the UK were being run like businesses rather than educational institutes, and alleged that Anglia Ruskin offered her a higher amount to settle out-of-court privately, with a non-disclosure agreement. However the university claimed that she had offered to sign the NDA for more money and it had refused.
“The university is focused on its own commercial interests rather than those of the students,” she said. “Their focus is on how to recruit as many students as possible regardless of their resources.”
She added: “I want to encourage other people to follow suit. This was not for the £61,000 – if you have followed me from the beginning you’ll have seen that I spent much more money and time on this than that.”
Wong now works as a paralegal in Hong Kong, and said that money from her part-time work and support from her family helped fund her battle. She said that she prepared many of her court papers herself.
Despite the payout, Anglia Ruskin has maintained that the case does not prove that the university was at fault.
“Ms Wong’s longstanding litigation … has been settled at the instruction of our insurers to draw a line under these matters and to prevent a further escalation of their legal costs,” a spokesman said.
“The claims were wholly without merit and resulted in cost orders made against Ms Wong by the Central London county court on two occasions.”
Last year, the county court of Central London ruled in the university’s favour and ordered Wong to pay £13,700 of Anglia Ruskin’s legal costs. However, the university’s insurers then wrote to the former student and offered to settle her £15,000 claim and cover her legal costs.
Anglia Ruskin added that it did not support the decision made by its insurer’s solicitors.
Wong said that the payout represented a “proven victory” despite the university denying any wrongdoing. But it was no cause for celebration. “I didn’t want to settle the case, I wanted to take it to the courts so it would set a precedent,” she said.
“However, I didn’t have much money to keep the case going and hire a legal team … so I had to compromise and reach a settlement.”
The National Union of Students has said the report of the settlement indicated a way that students can seek recourse.
Anglia Ruskin has fallen to 118th best ranked university in the UK from 104th in 2008, according to the Complete University Guide.
By Mattha Busby