Students May Be Entitled To Tuition Fee Refunds For Lost Teaching During Lockdown | TOTUM
Ben Hayward November 26th
2020

Students may be entitled to financial compensation for lost teaching time this year after the higher education complaints watchdog told one university to pay £1,000 to one of its students. 

So far, tens of thousands of students have signed petitions calling for partial tuition fee refunds after the coronavirus pandemic caused widespread disruption to their education. 

Having been encouraged to attend university campuses, many were then faced with their courses moved online, limited face-to-face teaching and forced self-isolation in halls of residence as Covid infections took hold in the student population.

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So far, roughly 200 complaints have been submitted to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), although more are expected, as students must first take their cases through internal complaints channels within their university. 

The OIA has now published details of a sample of 10 cases it has considered on its website which the majority relating to disruption in the 2019-20 academic year when the UK first went into lockdown.

The student who has been awarded £1,000 was a second-year international student paying annual fees of £13,500, with the OIA saying it sanctioned the payment as four weeks of teaching for a module, and a final project worth 60% of the module, were cancelled.

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The ombudsman said: “We concluded that the provider had not taken sufficient steps in relation to this module to mitigate the disruption to the student’s learning experience or to ensure that the delivery of the module was broadly equivalent to its usual arrangements.”

Three of the 10 case summaries published by the OIA said the complaints were either justified or partly justified, however others were rejected with the OIA concluding that universities had taken appropriate  steps to ensure students could achieve expected learning outcomes.

However, the National Union of Students (NUS) has described the complaints process as ‘farcical’ and ‘inadequate’, reports The Guardian. 

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NUS president, Larissa Kennedy, said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous that the government seems to be completely unaware of the level of student anger. 

“We are seeing, from a wave of student rent strikes and other action, that students feel they have been neglected and abandoned over the last term.”

Felicity Mitchell, the independent adjudicator at the OIA, said: 

“We recognise that many people [at universities] have been working incredibly hard to minimise disruption and to support students, and that students and those who support them have faced very real difficulties. We are acutely aware that there are limits to what is reasonable or even possible in this context. But students must still be treated fairly.”

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