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Student Wins Discrimination Claim against Newcastle University for Compulsory Exams

A medical student at the University of Newcastle has succeeded in a claim of disability discrimination in the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (“the Tribunal”) under Section 49L of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, 1977.

That section provides that “it is unlawful for an educational authority to discriminate against a student on the ground of a disability:

  1. by denying him or her access, or limiting his or her access, to any benefit provided by the educational authority, or
  2. by expelling him or her, or
  3. by subjecting him or her to any other detriment“.

The student, who has a borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, had failed to sit written exams and avoided some clinical assessments, particularly in paediatrics and surgery, because of “extreme anxiety in relation to sitting exams [and] performance assessments”.

Her psychiatrist, Dr Elizabeth O’Brien, said the woman suffered “an intense fear of failure and the shame of this at times paralyses her ability to apply herself consistently to her studies”.

The University of Newcastle declined to grant the student an extension of time to complete her Bachelor of Medicine after she had only completed three and a half years of course work in an eight year period, the maximum time allowed under university policy.

The Tribunal upheld the student’s claim that the University had discriminated against her on the grounds of disability and directed the University to grant her an eighteen month extension, finding that there was a “probable connection” between the University’s decision and her disability.

If you believe you have been discriminated against on the grounds of your disability, race or ethnicity, age, sex or marital status, contact Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699 to learn more about your legal rights from an experienced equal opportunity Solicitor.

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