Petitions committee concludes there should not be a universal reimbursement for coronavirus disruption
- Coronavirus – latest updates
- See all our coronavirus coverage
Students at British universities should not expect automatic tuition fee refunds for disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to MPs, despite complaints from thousands of those affected.
The MPs on parliament’s petitions committee said while many students had lost out as a result of campus closures and the switch to remote learning, at least some universities had made “enormous efforts” to provide effective teaching.
In a report, the committee concluded: “While students do have a right to seek a refund or to repeat part of their course if the service provided by their university is substandard, we do not believe that there should be a universal refund or reimbursement of tuition fees to all university students.”
The National Union of Students has said UK universities should offer the chance to repeat the year at no extra cost, or reimburse students’ debts and costs.
The committee heard evidence from students and policymakers after a petition to reimburse all students for this year’s fees gained more than 300,000 signatures. The report will be forwarded to the government and requires a response within two months.
Catherine McKinnell, the Labour MP who chairs the petitions committee, said: “Despite the hard work of lecturers and support staff, some universities have been unable to provide courses in a way that students feel is good value for money. Therefore, while we do not consider that a blanket refund for all students is necessarily required, we believe that the government has a role in ensuring any student whose university experience has fallen short is compensated.”
The report calls for refund procedures to be streamlined and better publicised, saying the existing complaints process or use of the courts places too much of a burden on individual students and are likely to be overwhelmed by a flood of cases.
The MPs also said the government should pay for tuition fee refunds this year, “given the importance of the higher education sector to the UK economy, and the exceptional circumstances”.
The committee’s research found just 7% of students were satisfied with the quality of education received this year, while 87% said their teaching hours had decreased since March. About 47% said they had paid for accommodation they didn’t need.
The committee heard from one student who said that after lectures were cancelled, “half my lecturers just stuck up last year’s recordings”. Another said: “We lost all of our international courses, events, networking opportunities, and even access to university facilities, like the library and data terminals.”
Another student told the MPs: “Most private schools have given a tuition fee decrease for the final term, which students will not be attending. If a private school can do that, when they are practically reliant on those funds, I feel that universities should be able to as well.”
Source: Read Full Article