Thousands of students are demanding refunds of tuition fees, fearing coronavirus will ruin their university experiences.
Many are disappointed by the online-only teaching on offer, arguing they are getting bad value for money, while more than 3,000 are currently trapped in their halls under lockdowns.
Almost 200,000 people have signed an online petition to refund tuition fees for 2020/21 due to Covid-19.
It is possible to win back money from your university if you feel you haven’t got value for money. Here, we illustrate how to claim a refund from your institution.
How to get a refund on your tuition fees
According to website Save The Student, 1,635 students made complaints about their university in 2017 and received a total of £650,000 in compensation. Reasons ranged from changes to course content to poor teaching.
Students should first speak to their university to see if they can resolve their issue through existing complaints and appeals procedures, the Government has said.
If a complaint is unsuccessful students can appeal to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, a body for higher education complaints. It will judge whether students have been unfairly treated and if their university did enough to provide a similar quality of teaching this year as at any other time. The ombudsman can be contacted via oiahe.org.uk.
The OIA said it can look at complaints about what was promised and what was delivered, but could not make judgments on issues such as quality of teaching. It will also take into account other issues students may be facing, for example if they have had to care for a relative during the pandemic, or have poor internet connection or no access to a computer.
Students can only approach the OIA once they have received a ‘Completion of Procedures’ letter from their university with its response to their complaint. They have 12 months from the date on the letter to approach the OIA.
If this fails, students could try to go through the courts. Last year law firm Bott & Co offered to file individual claims on behalf of students who’d had lectures cancelled.
What have other universities done?
Students in halls at Glasgow University are all being refunded one month’s rent – whether they are having to self-isolate or not. Those who are in lockdown will also get £50 each to help pay for food and supplies and have been promised deliveries of food, cleaning materials, bedding and towels.
What obligations are universities under?
Universities should be doing all they can to make sure students are not disadvantaged by the pandemic.
If they are able to offer different but generally equivalent teaching, you are unlikely to get a refund on your tuition. For example, students who are unhappy because some modules they were hoping to do are no longer available will struggle to make a case for a refund.
Those who were expecting to do most of their learning this year in laboratories may also not be eligible for a refund if the university is able to reschedule this for another time.
Universities sometimes allow students to suspend their studies for a period before resuming them, so they could take this year out and hope that teaching returns to normal next year. However there is no guarantee that will be the case and it may be more difficult to get a university to agree to a suspension this year.