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University of Bristol’s Appeal Denied in Natasha Abrahart Discrimination Case

Natasha Abrahart’s story resonated deeply within the University of Bristol community and beyond. Her untimely death in 2018 sparked widespread outrage and prompted soul-searching conversations about the responsibilities universities bear towards their students, particularly concerning mental health support and duty of care.

In a significant development regarding the tragic case of Natasha Abrahart, the University of Bristol’s appeal against a ruling in the discrimination case has been denied. This decision marks a critical juncture in the ongoing pursuit of justice for Natasha and her family, as well as a pivotal moment for the accountability of institutions towards their students’ mental health and wellbeing.

The High Court’s refusal to entertain the university’s appeal underscores the gravity of the allegations levelled against them. It sends a resounding message that accountability cannot be evaded or delayed when it comes to safeguarding the welfare of Disabled students. 

Central to the case is the question of whether the University of Bristol owed a duty of care to Natasha Abrahart, a promising young student who tragically took her own life. The legal battle has illuminated broader systemic issues within academic institutions, shedding light on the inadequacies in mental health support and the duty of care owed to students facing psychological distress.

The denial of the university’s appeal reflects a broader societal shift towards demanding greater accountability from institutions, particularly in matters of mental health and discrimination. Students, faculty, and activists have long called for universities to prioritize mental health resources and support systems, urging them to recognize their duty of care extends beyond academic success to encompass the overall wellbeing of students.

Natasha Abrahart’s case serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact institutional negligence can have on individuals and their families. It underscores the urgent need for universities to reassess their policies, procedures, and practices concerning mental health support, ensuring that no student feels unsupported or neglected during their academic journey.

Moreover, the decision sets a precedent for future cases involving Disabled students’ welfare and institutional accountability. It signals that universities cannot shirk their responsibilities or shield themselves from scrutiny when it comes to protecting the mental health and wellbeing of their students.

The crux of the case is the ruling by the judge that the University breached its duties of care, stating ‘as a Disabled student… she is afforded protection by the Equality Act 2010’.  This included failing to make reasonable adjustments to the way the University treated Natasha on account of her social anxiety disorder.  The judge found that the University’s regime of oral assessments placed Natasha at a substantial disadvantage when compared with non-Disabled students.

Natasha Abrahart’s mother, Maggie, addressed the Vice Chancellor of the university in a statement, saying;

“We want you to read this judgement very carefully and follow its lessons,” 

“We want you to think how you would wish your son or daughter to be treated at university if they were Disabled and needed their rights protecting.”

She added that they have been campaigning for Parliament to pass a statutory duty of care, a petition for which gained 128,000 signatures before it closed.

It would require all universities to act with reasonable care and skill so as to avoid causing harm to students.


In the wake of this decision, the University of Bristol and institutions across the country must heed the lessons learned from Natasha Abrahart’s tragic story and redouble their efforts to prioritize mental health and wellbeing within their communities. Only by acknowledging their duty of care and actively working to fulfil it can universities truly honour the memory of Natasha Abrahart and ensure that no student suffers in silence.

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