Higher Education

Our presence, profile and expertise in the sector continues to be recognised by Legal 500 which consistently ranks us as a Tier 1 firm for Higher Education

In a highly regulated and politicised sector, we can truly offer full-service advice

We have built a high profile in the HE sector, working closely with sector bodies on key sector issues and being actively involved in helping to shape the “universities of the future” through thought leadership and through our presence on and contribution to sector commissions, such as the Higher Education Commission and the Skills Commission. These activities directly influence government policy and sector strategy.

We also have a dedicated Private Education Providers team with a full-service offering to independent providers of higher education. Our team is able to draw upon our education expertise while understanding the particular challenges faced by the independent tertiary education sector, providing advice that meet the sector’s needs from adapting to student requirements to partnering with traditional universities and consolidating mergers with other institutions.

We're proud to be trusted legal advisors to many industry leaders

University of Warwick
University of Cambridge
University of Nottingham
University of Birmingham
London South Bank University
"The team has an excellent and in-depth knowledge of the HE sector and a clear passion for the work of its clients. Its experience means it is able to engage in constructive sounding-board discussions to navigate difficult issues, as well as provide more formal technical legal advice." - Legal 500

What we can do for you

Governance, regulatory and constitutional

Higher education is an increasingly complex environment and it is important for universities to ensure they are complying with all governance requirements. Our team have a wealth of experience in advising our university clients on the full range of governance and regulatory issues.

Student Issues

Our specialist education team advise our university clients on the full range of needs and requirements of their students, including areas such as disputes, complaints and appeals, discrimination, student union matters,  regulation and immigration.

Employment Law

HR within higher education faces many unique challenges, our education sector employment law team support you, as well as many other university clients, on a broad range of both contentious and non-contentious employment matters.

Commercial & corporate law

There are a broad range of commercial issues arising for higher education clients. From simple supplier arrangements through to complex procurements, our expert team can support you on the full range of commercial issues arising. We also advise on subsidiary and spin-out companies and other corporate law issues.

Intellectual property and innovation

Universities often find themselves in positions where individuals working through university channels may have created IP assets. Issues about ownership of IP come up regularly and we are well placed to advise on the university’s entitlement to IP and what steps should be taken in order to safeguard its position and participate in any commercial agreements.

Property, finance & construction

Property is key to the universities' ongoing functions and therefore it is important to ensure you receive sector focussed advice. Our education sector property team comprises experts in property, finance, property litigation, construction and planning, and advises across all relevant areas including estate management strategies, major campus redevelopments and student and staff accommodation.

Data protection

Mishandling data could expose universities to substantial fines and serious reputational damage – you can’t afford to get it wrong. Our team regularly advises on updating policies, notices and contracts to ensure GDPR compliance. We are also well versed in dealing with FOIA and subject access requests.


Given the unique diversity of activity within universities, there are a wide variety of disputes which may arise with suppliers, contractors, partners, visitors, members of the public, staff and of course students.  From individual personal injury claims through to multi-million disputes with major IT suppliers, we are able to provide bespoke sector-focussed support to ensure the best outcome for the university.

We value our relationships

We invest time with all our clients in building a long term partnership, so that we can truly become an extension of their team. As well as ensuring your received value for money, our added value offering is focussed on training and empowering teams. Our clients have access to free of charge:

  • Seminars and networking opportunities

  • Legal updates covering issues affecting higher education

  • A helpline to quickly access advice

  • Bespoke training and student benefits, such as employability workshops, mentoring and budding schemes

Some of our higher education experience

Campus Redevelopment
We have been advising Staffordshire University on its £55 million campus redevelopment, including flagship building The Catalyst, a state-of-the-art nursery and forest school, the Cadman Building and a new student campus.


Catalyst Building
The works have involved the demolition of the existing structure and development of the new building, which will house an Apprenticeships & Digital Skills Hub, a new library, social learning spaces and a restaurant and café.

We have been working closely with the university’s project director and its external project managers to provide timely advice throughout the whole .

Nursery and Forest School
At the end of 2020 we completed negotiations with a contractor in relation to a new £4.4m woodland nursery and forest school. On completion the building will become the university’s first net-zero carbon facility on its campus, having been designed using passive and highly efficient technologies for heating, cooling, and ventilation.

Group Creation
Whistleblowing Allegations
Intellectual Property
Student Management System

Listen to our Going Further & Higher Podcast

In each episode, we’ll discuss topical issues impacting the further and higher education sector, aiming to spark debate, engage and inspire those working in the sector.

Why choose Shakespeare Martineau?

  • We have a highly experienced team with a number of specialists who work exclusively with our education clients. Also, our values of ‘unlocking potential’ and ACTBrave resonate with those in the sector

  • Our Green Campus initiative, which combines our education and energy expertise to support education institutions achieve their sustainable goals

  • Our involvement in helping to shape the ‘university of the future’ with activities that directly influence government policy and sector strategy, e.g. supporting the Student Futures Commission

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

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