Ben HaywardMarch 2nd
2021

A number of universities are now being forced to pay students compensation for damage to their learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

After thousands of students have seen their studies severely disrupted due to the pandemic, with many missing out on vital parts of courses for which they are paying over £9,000 a year.  

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) has released a series of case summaries that providing details on complaints students have made regarding the impact of the pandemic on their education including disrupted learning, accommodation and missing out on practical elements of courses.

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The OIA - which was set up under the the Higher Education Act 2004 to review student complaints about universities and other higher education providers in England and Wales - says the cases show the ‘complex situations’ the pandemic has brought about 

The body received a total of 2,604 complaints in 2020 - 500 of which specifically related to the effects of the pandemic.

One came from an international medical student paying course fees of £38,000 at an unnamed institution who argued that when the university stopped all clinical placements due to the pandemic, they missed out on vital practical experience.

The OIA revealed that the complainant has been awarded £5,000 due to the 'severe disappointment and inconvenience' they experienced because their final year of studies had been 'less valuable' than expected.

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Another healthcare student has been awarded £1,500 for the 'inconvenience and significant disappointment' they faced after a lab-based research project that was part of their Master's degree course was cancelled stating they had missed out on learning the practical techniques employers require, therefore disadvantaging them in the jobs market.

Felicity Mitchell, independent adjudicator, said: "The case summaries reflect the hugely challenging and complex situations that students and providers have faced as a result of the pandemic.

"Where possible we try to reach a settlement and we are pleased that in many cases providers and students have been very open to this.

"The summaries illustrate our approach to deciding what is fair and reasonable in these kinds of situations. We hope they will be helpful to providers and students.”

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A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We have been clear that the quality and quantity of tuition should not drop, and should be accessible to all students, regardless of their background. The Office for Students is monitoring online teaching to ensure this is the case."

The group Universities UK advised students to 'speak to their universities in the first instance' if they have a complaint they wish to raise.

A spokeswoman added: "Universities are developing plans to support students to have the fullest possible experience when they return to campuses. "

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