A student watchdog has said that Universities in England should consider making partial refunds of tuition fees if students have had their studies interrupted by strikes. Head of the Office for Students (the higher education regulator in England) Nicola Dandridge said that universities hit by industrial action should make up for any disruption.
Dandridge explained that ‘universities are subject to consumer protection law’ and therefore should consider how they will make up for any disruption caused by industrial action. Making up for disruptions might include rescheduling any teaching which is missed, delivering course topics in a different way, or considering whether partial refunds of tuition fees are ‘appropriate.’
Between December 1st and 3rd, staff at 58 UK universities went on strike, protesting issues to do with pensions, pay, and working conditions. Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said:
‘It is deeply regrettable that staff have been forced into taking industrial action again, but sadly university bosses have shown little interest in negotiating in good faith and addressing the serious concerns of staff over falling pay, massive pension cuts, equality pay gaps and the rampant use of insecure contracts.’
Grady also said that if vice-chancellors continue to ignore the ‘modest’ demands of staff then they will be forced to take ‘further industrial action’ in the new year.
As a final year student, throughout my time at university I have dealt with strikes, a global pandemic, and endless lockdowns. The majority of my learning has been online with classes delivered on Zoom, and now, in my final months, I have been hit by strikes once again. Dandridge has acknowledged this experience, stating that ‘students have endured an exceptionally difficult time,’ and it therefore ‘cannot be right that they face further disruption.’
Final year University of Birmingham student Jennifer Prince agrees that students should be refunded money from strikes, especially given that final year students haven’t had a year that hasn’t been ‘massively disrupted in some form.’ She told Freshered: ‘We haven’t received the quality of education that we are paying a lot of money for.’
However, Prince continued on to say: ‘But I also support the strikes and think that giving students money back (as much as we should have it) wouldn’t solve the problem that the strikes are highlighting.’