Skip to main content

Education: Universities

We have extensive experience of advising over 20% of UK universities (Chartered, Post ‘92, specialist, research and Further Education providers), 182 public sector organisations and Academies, on a broad spectrum of educational matters, including employment.

Our team

Our team includes three former University in-house employment lawyers with over 40 years combined experience, and former local government lawyers. Our wider team act as advisors to a wide range of education clients. We engage with you to get to know your values, to provide your institution with seamless and trusted advice on employment issues related to educational providers. We can also advise on non-employment matters where relevant.

Our service

We deliver a high-quality service and match our team to meet your needs. We will spend significant time with the senior Human Resources leaders at your University, giving strategic advice. This can include advice on business planning, managing relationships with Unions, threats of Industrial Action and the importance of managing public communications and preserving positive relationships with students.

Your Client Relationship Owner (CRO) will ensure total continuity of service and focus on supporting your University to achieve your objectives within costs agreed with you.

Our HR Rely team is flexible, available and supports our clients to address their issues confidently and quickly. Our service is demand-led to meet significant peaks and troughs of activity.


We operate a dedicated HR helpline service, with emergency contacts for those clients in the HE sector who require this level of day-to-day advice. We find the majority of commonly occurring issues fall with the scope of the retainer, that our early advice helps to mitigate against bigger issues arising down the line. Our client feedback shows our clients value discussing issues at an early stage, as they arise and which avoids problems becoming more complex.

Employment tribunals

Whilst we work with you closely to avoid employment tribunal claims, they will inevitably, occasionally arise. You can be assured that, at the outset of each case, we will review the claim and advise on the legal issues and the relevant evidence that needs to be collated, as well as identifying the witnesses. As early as is reasonably practicable, we provide an initial assessment of the merits and potential quantum of compensation as well as giving advice about other relevant factors such as potential reputational damage, policy, and strategic implications.

Recent work for University clients

The range of our work with HE clients covers all aspects of employment relations and employment law advice. Recent examples include:

  • COVID Advice; Testing, vaccination and ‘return to work’
  • Advising Universities on responding to student complaints arising out of the disruption of services caused by COVID.
  • Policy development and review: Including Trans Equality, Menopause, Safe Reporting Procedures.
  • Dealing with complex disciplinary allegations (including plagiarism, misrepresentation of qualifications, and allegations of sexual misconduct)
  • Dealing with serious and multiple grievances raised by students and staff.
  • Immigration advice (most recently related to Brexit and staff relocation)
  • TUPE advice (including multimillion-pound outsourcing agreements).
  • Pension advice including the implications/risks of transferring courses into a new commercial venture.
  • Advising on successfully defending high-profile and sensitive employment tribunal claims raised by academics, including allegations of unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and disability discrimination.
  • Supporting Universities to manage press interest and understand their obligations to staff targeted with discriminatory and abusive communications.
  • Settlement agreements and negotiated exits (including for senior academics).

Our three-tier menu offering enables you to choose the right support package that works for best for your business. Your CRO will be able to help guide you through the process.

Susan  Matthews
Principal Associate

Susan Matthews

  • +44 (0)113 213 4013

What our clients say

Seema Champaneri Associate Director People Services and Improvement, London Business School
[During a recent project] Weightmans delivered high level technical, practical, and commercial advice relating to organisational structure, strategic advice on achieving our business objectives, fair processes on selection for redundancy or settlement agreements, in accordance with policy. We have now entered into an SLP for employment services, including the handling of Employment Tribunal claims and the provision of a management and HR helpline.  The helpline allows members of the client’s HR department and members of the wider management team within the University direct contact to Weightmans team of qualified Higher Education employment lawyers, to discuss and receive advice in respect of day-to-day employee relations and employment law issues faced by the University. The breadth of issues arising extends to the full range of operational employment issues affecting a University with 700 staff. The Weightmans team are approachable, knowledgeable and provide advice in straightforward, easy to apply terms. They have gained a real understanding of [our organisation] and the HR Team’s goals. We would recommend the Weightmans team based on our experience of working with them.
Legal 500 Directory 2022: Education: North
A strong focus on higher education differentiates the offering at Weightmans, with the team now acting for approximately one fifth of the country's universities, providing advice across the full spectrum of their requirements and assisting with projects of strategic importance.

Essential Reading