What are students doing about university fee refunds following the Covid-19 pandemic?
When the first lockdown came into place in March 2020, students were concerned about the future of their education and university experiences, but nothing could have prepared them for what was to come. Over a year later in April 2021 and many students have still not been allowed to return to in-person teaching, with some making the hard decision to stay at home and miss out on living away, or choosing to stay on campuses separated from their family, but close to their friends.
No grade safety nets
Throughout the last academic year, students have realised just how much they were losing out. Most universities are still charging home students £9,250 per year, and international students a whopping £19,500, despite the clear disadvantages of online learning. So far many universities have refused to help students with grade safety nets and there are now many students who believe they are entitled to a refund.
Students decided to take matters into their own hands, with organisations such as S.A.F.E.R (Student Action for a Fair and Educated Response) and 9K4What popping up all the way up and down the country. These groups hoped to help students by creating straightforward guidance for submitting formal complaints, demanding tuition fee refunds or reductions, and fighting for a more comprehensive and fair marking system which will take the pandemic’s difficulties into consideration.
Despite these truly admirable efforts, the facts remain the same: complaint processes are severely bureaucratic, difficult to understand, time-consuming and disheartening. When students are already struggling with deadlines the prospect of going through a lengthy virtual battle with members of the university’s staff they have never had any personal contact with is quite simply, a nightmare.
Competitions and market authority
This has led Student Unions around the UK to go a step further by asking the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for a streamlined complaint system that students could easily access and utilise without having to go through a long, drawn-out process. While this might seem like a light at the end of the tunnel, the battle is not over yet, as the CMA has alerted that despite looking into the Student Union’s inquiry, students’ current situation lies in a legal grey area.
If the CMA cannot help students with their plea, they are just another part of a larger system which has failed students, as neither the government, its independent entities, or universities seem to be prepared to take responsibility for the way students have been mistreated and misled during these difficult times.
For students still looking for some guidance or compensation, we advise you to contact your Academic advisors, your university’s Students’ Union, and organisations such as S.A.F.E.R and 9K4What.