Life brings many joys and disappointments. For as many good things that happen, there will be missed opportunities, rejections, failures. Most of us take these on the chin, and, as Samuel Beckett advised, try to fail better next time.
But it seems not everyone is so thick-skinned. Take Faiz Siddiqui, the Oxford graduate suing his alma mater for not giving him a first-class degree – 16 years ago. Siddiqui is seeking £1million in lost earnings on the basis that his failure to get a first stopped him from becoming a ‘high-flying commercial barrister’.
This is absurd. By the same logic I could sue my primary school, St Joan of Arc, for removing the monkey bars when I was in Year Three, thus thwarting my potential as a gymnast. I could take my GCSE teacher to court for telling me I couldn’t sew straight and in the process killing my dreams of being a designer.
Siddiqui seems incapable of accepting that it was most likely his own failings as a student, or perhaps his choices as an adult, that prevented him from getting his dream job. Oxford has admitted there was a shortage of staff for some of the time Siddiqui was there, affecting his studies. But even so, the point of being a university student, as opposed to a high-school one, is that you take responsibility for your learning; you set out to discover as much as being lectured and taught. A little self-awareness would serve Siddiqui better than a court case against Oxford.
But Siddiqui’s behaviour isn’t surprising. There have been other instances of students suing their universities. And this is the logical outcome of the commercialisation of education. When university is presented as little more than a stepping stone to a career and the thing that keeps the British economy going – that is, in narrow economic terms – it is hardly surprising that, like customers, students ask for money back when they don’t get the product they wanted.