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Report: Petitions Committee calls for Government increase support for Universities and students amid ‘huge’ COVID-19 disruption

Students in a lecture theatre
13 July 2020

The Petitions Committee has launched a report calling on the Government to take urgent action and review the support for universities and students during COVID-19.

 

Read the full report

 

More than 347,000 people have signed an e-petition calling for the Government to Reimburse all students of this year’s fees due to strikes and COVID-19. This prompted an inquiry where the Committee took evidence from the petition creator Sophie Quinn, a final year student at Liverpool University, and representatives of students, staff, and universities themselves.

The Committee also heard from over 28,000 students, parents and university staff through a survey and online forum. Many shared their experiences of the huge disruption the outbreak has had on their education. The Committee heard evidence on how the outbreak has particularly impacted those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those on more hands-on courses where students need to use university facilities.

The Petitions Committee has submitted the report for consideration, and expect to receive a prompt response from the Government on this urgent issue.

 

Key findings and recommendations made in the report include:

  • A significant number of students have told us they are not receiving the standard of education that they had expected, feel they are entitled to, or which offers true value-for-money in light of the amount they are paying in tuition fees.
  • Many students have experienced difficulties accessing the online content that has been made available, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and courses where students need to use university facilities have been particularly affected.
  • Students have also faced a number of practical challenges as a result of the outbreak, including in many cases loss of income and difficulties with accommodation.
  • In at least some cases universities have been able to provide courses in a way that students believe is good value for money. We do not therefore believe that there should be a universal refund or reimbursement of tuition fees to all university students.
  • Students have a right to seek a refund or to repeat part of their course if the service provided by their university is substandard, but the exact circumstances in which students should expect to receive a refund or be able to repeat part of their course are not clear.

 

The Government should:

work with universities, the Office for Students, and Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to produce guidance on when current and future university students may be entitled to seek a refund or to repeat part of their course;

establish a new system which enables all students to easily seek a full or partial refund of their tuition fees, or to repeat part of their course;

ensure that all students are advised of their consumer rights and are given clear guidance on how to avail themselves of these if they feel their university has failed to provide an adequate standard of education;

consider providing additional funding to universities to enable them to pay any refunds university students are entitled to as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak;

consider alternative means for reimbursing students, where an independent process has found that they are entitled to a refund;

consider making additional funding available to students who might want to extend their education after the outbreak, and to provide ongoing employment advice and support beyond graduation in what is likely to be an extremely challenging employment market.

 


Find out more about the Committee’s inquiry into the Government’s response to coronavirus

 

Image: Creative Commons

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