STUDENTS are suing a university in Wales claiming breach of contract.
In the first move of its kind to hit this nation, a lawsuit funded by philosophy students at the University of Wales Swansea will be handed in at the city's District Court today.
Louise Stoddart, spokeswoman for the unhappy undergraduates, said yesterday, "Students feel the cutting of university departments and the continued suspension of philosophy lecturer Colwyn Williamson means they are not getting the education they were promised."
The university has been dogged by controversy since Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Davies and his management team announced plans last year to cut chemistry, sociology and other "unpopular" departments including philosophy.
Mr Williamson, an outspoken opponent of the cuts, was suspended last month. He has been denied access to his university email account and banned from campus. It followed a police investigation into allegations about "hacking" into computers at the seaside university. Mr Williamson's home was raided by police on St David's Day. They took away equipment including CDs belonging to his 12-year-old daughter.
Later, however, said Mr Williamson, the police agreed to take no further action after he accepted a caution. Discussions are continuing about the length of his suspension and what action to take next.
Earlier this month, Cefin Hayward, a member of Swansea's Student Action Committee Against Closures, was summoned to a police station. He was interviewed regarding a complaint under the Harassment Act of 1997 relating to posters he had allegedly placed on the campus depicting the Vice-Chancellor with a pointed or elongated head. He was released without charge with a warning about future behaviour in relation to posters.
And last week Jonathan Jones, a student representative on the University Senate, was charged with an internal university disciplinary offence. It was alleged he had criticised the Vice-Chancellor after Prof Davies cancelled a senate meeting in the face of a student demonstration.
Ms Stoddart said yesterday, "The philosophy students feel sufficiently disadvantaged that they have funded this legal action themselves.
"They claim they cannot be taught properly with Mr Williamson off campus and a threat hanging over the philosophy department."
Philosophy student Guy Rainey, 21, from Reading, said "We feel this suspension and Swansea University's failure to respond to our concerns, represents a serious betrayal of our best interests. As students we now feel we have no choice but to pursue this matter in the courts."
A university spokeswoman said,"As in many higher education institutions, teaching staff absences occur for numerous reasons. In each case the university ensures professional teaching staff are on hand to help."
The University Visitor, an ombudsman, is examining the plans to reduce departments at Swan-sea. Prof Davies says the changes are necessary to attract the fund-ing needed to make the university a first-class educational institution.