Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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What the Petitions Committee is doing

Petition Reimburse all students of this year’s fees due to strikes and COVID-19

All students should be reimbursed of this years tuition fees as universities are now online only due to COVID-19, with only powerpoints online for learning materials which is not worthy of up to £9,250. Furthermore, all assessments are being reconsidered to ‘make do’ and build up credits.

More details

Field trips have also been cancelled which our tuition fee was to pay for. There is also no need for accommodation which students have paid between £4,000-£8,000 for in advance and adding to their student debt. Lastly, the extended strikes of this year have severely disrupted student-staff interaction and personalised help, with staff not replying to emails or available for meetings. Grading is also being delayed. Overall, university quality is poor this year and certainly not worth up to £9,250.

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Government responded

This response was given on 5 June 2020

HE providers must deliver high quality courses.
If students are unhappy they should first complain to their provider and if their concerns are unresolved they can ask OIA to consider their complaint.

Read the response in full

Government recognises the challenges facing students and supports them in their desire to continue receiving the best possible learning experience from our higher education (HE) providers. We consider it in the best interests of all students that they receive a high-quality online education during this unprecedented period that allows them to progress and to complete their studies within the time period they had been anticipating.

There are some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by HE providers across the country, and the sector is working hard to provide and prepare learning materials for the summer and autumn terms. Universities are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees. In deciding to keep charging full fees, universities will of course want to ensure that they can continue to deliver courses which are fit for purpose and help students progress their qualifications. Any refund is a matter for universities, so we are not considering a write off of tuition fee loans.

We believe that students should be at the heart of the HE system. The Office for Students (OfS), the regulator in England, has committed to protecting students throughout the present crisis and has published guidance for registered providers on how it will approach the regulation of quality and standards, and this includes practical ways in which students can complete their studies whilst ensuring quality and standards are upheld. Providers are already making these arrangements and the Government is in continuous contact with the sector to support the continuation of teaching and assessment. The Government is also working closely with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education to ensure students continue to leave HE with qualifications that have real value, reflect their hard work and allow people to progress.

The Government’s clear expectation is that HE providers should make all reasonable efforts to enable students to complete their studies. If providers are unable to facilitate good online tuition, they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms they may need to undergo as a consequence – avoiding effectively charging them twice. Whether or not an individual student is entitled to a refund of fees will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student.

It is important that students continue to receive a good standard of education, and they are entitled to make a complaint if they feel that their HE provider has not taken sufficient steps to appropriately respond to this situation. In the first instance, students should speak to their provider to see if they can resolve their complaint. We expect student complaints and appeals processes to be operated flexibly, accessibly, and sympathetically by providers to resolve any concerns. If a student at a provider in England or Wales is not satisfied with their provider’s response, they can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to consider their complaint.

Government also understands that it may be difficult for some students to finish their current year of study for personal reasons, and that this will undoubtedly be a source of concern to many. Where students are unable to complete their current year of study or need to repeat a year due to compelling personal reasons, they may be eligible for an additional year of fee loan support above their standard entitlement under existing arrangements.

Finally, Government appreciates the difficult situation facing students who are renting term-time accommodation. We encourage universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of large companies have waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts. Students who are tenants with individual private landlords should discuss the possibility of an early release from their tenancy agreement. The Government has also worked with the OfS so that existing funds, totalling £46m across April and May, can now be used to boost providers’ hardship funds for students in financial difficulty. This can include help for IT equipment and internet access, and may be helpful for students who are struggling with housing costs or loss of income from part-time work.

Government has previously responded to a petition concerning compensation for strike action at universities. The response to this petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300528

Department for Education

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/302855)

Other parliamentary business

Watch the Petitions Committee question Universities Minister on the impact of coronavirus on YouTube

At 3.30pm tomorrow, Thursday 11 June,the Petitions Committee will question Minister for Universities, Michelle Donelan MP, about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on universities and students.

Watch the session live:
YouTube: https://youtu.be/jIxlS5yuzHE
Parliamentlive.TV: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/5859f062-7772-40c3-83c5-055ae87df55d

Find out more: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/146769/petitions-committee-to-question-universities-minister-on-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-university-students/

Petitions Committee investigates the impact of COVID-19 on universities and students

On Thursday 7 May, the Petitions Committee is holding two formal oral evidence sessions on coronavirus. The second of these will look at the impact on students and universities, prompted by a petition you signed. The evidence sessions form part of the Committee’s ongoing inquiry into COVID-19.

Watch the session live from around 3.30pm on Thursday: https://youtu.be/TOFPLeE7dqQ

In advance of the sessions, the Petitions Committee asked those who has signed the petitions to share their experiences. The Committee is very grateful to all those who shared their views.

The session on the impact of coronavirus on students and universities will run from 15:30-16:30. It follows a petition signed by over 330,000 people which calls for universities to reimburse all students of this year’s fees due to strikes and COVID-19.

Read more about both sessions: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/146332/petitions-committee-investigate-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-students-and-on-maternity-leave/

The evidence sessions, which will be led by Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP, will explore the overarching issues raised by these petitions and will help the Committee better understand these issues and inform their constructive scrutiny of the Government on behalf of petitioners.

The evidence session will start around 15:30 on Thursday 7 May, and can be watched live on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TOFPLeE7dqQ

What is the Petitions Committee?

The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs that considers e-petitions submitted on Parliament’s petitions website and public (paper) petitions presented to the House of Commons. It is independent of the Government.

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter
@HoCpetitions or on their
website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

Find out more about how petitions work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGEOraE08Jk&feature=youtu.be

Share your views on the impact of coronavirus on students

The Petitions Committee is looking into the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on university students, and would like to hear your views. This is in response to several petitions on the subject, including the petition you signed.

You can share your experiences by completing this short survey: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/KX4LJZ/.

The survey will stay open until Friday 15 May. The Committee will be looking at this issue next week, and your answers will help them understand the issues people are facing and will inform the questions they put to the Government. Any responses to the survey received after next week will still be considered by the Committee, and could inform further work on this issue.

The Committee might publish some or all of your responses, or read them out when they’re asking questions in a public Committee meeting or in the House of Commons, so please don’t share any personal information that you don’t want to be public.

We will update you on the Committee’s session, including a link to watch the session live. You can also get updates by following the Committee on Twitter @HOCpetitions or on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/.

What is the Petitions Committee?
The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs which is independent of the Government. It considers petitions submitted to https://petition.parliament.uk and paper (public) petitions.

Petitions Committee requests a revised response from the Government

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have considered the Government’s response to this petition. They felt that the response did not directly address the request of petition and have therefore written back to the Government to ask them to provide a revised response.

When the Committee have received a revised response from the Government, this will be published on the website and you will receive an email. If you would not like to receive further updates about this petition, you can unsubscribe below.

Petitions Committee questions Government on its response to coronavirus

Last week the Petitions Committee put some of the most popular questions from the public about coronavirus to the Government Minister for Schools, the Minister for Disabled People and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. These included:

  • How long will schools be closed for and what will the impact be on exams and grades?
  • What financial support will be available for the self-employed?
  • What financial support will be offered to people who are unable to pay their rent or bills due to self-isolation or loss of work?
  • What support will be offered to the events, creative and hospitality industries now that pubs, clubs and cultural venues have been closed?
  • What clear, practical steps can people take to make sure they are following Government guidance on social distancing, household isolation and self-isolation?
  • Who is being tested and why, and will tests be made freely available to everyone?
  • What is the Government doing to ensure that everyone is getting the right information?

Watch the session on YouTube: https://youtu.be/aPLXJcZEfi8

Read the transcript: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/192/the-governments-response-to-coronavirus/publications/written-evidence/

Because of the large number of petitions that we continue to receive on coronavirus we have sent more questions to the Government to answer.

Read our letters to different Government Ministers: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/publications/3/correspondence/

Some of the questions we’ve asked include:

  • When will testing capacity will be increased; who will testing be available for and will it be free?
  • What is being done to tackle the spread of disinformation?
  • How quickly will support for self-employed people be made available?
  • What will happen to the school year? Will summer holidays be cancelled so that children can catch up?
  • How are foodbanks being supported to continue operating during the outbreak?
  • What is being done to address panic buying and prevent price hikes of key items?
  • Will trains, buses and flights continue to operate? For how long?

We’ll email you again to let you know when we get a response to these questions, and to let you know about any more action the Committee takes.

Who are we?

We are the House of Commons Petitions Committee. We are a cross-party group of MPs that looks at e-petitions submitted on petition.parliament.uk. We are independent from Government. You can find out more about us and our work on our website.

You can follow the Petitions Committee on Twitter: @HoCpetitions.

Further information

You can read impartial House of Commons Library information about coronavirus here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/coronavirus/

You can find out more about coronavirus and how you can protect yourself and others here:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

You can read NHS tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus here: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips

Petitions Committee holds formal evidence session on impact of Covid-19 on students and universities

We emailed people who had signed this petition by 30 April to ask you to share your experiences.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this survey - we have received over 27,000 responses and counting.

Your responses informed the questions the Petitions Committee put to petitioners and representatives of students, lecturers and universities in a formal evidence session last Thursday 7 May.

Watch Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Committee, express her thanks to everyone who completed the survey: https://youtu.be/6UYHW6GaMSQ

The session was really useful in helping the Committee better understand the impact of the pandemic on students and universities, and will inform the next steps in the Committee's ongoing inquiry into the Government's response to coronavirus.

Watch the full session on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOFPLeE7dqQ&t=71m50s

Find out more about the session, read a summary of what petitioners told us of their experiences, and a transcript of the session here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/146332/petitions-committee-investigate-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-students-and-on-maternity-leave/

We’ll email you again to let you know about any more action the Committee takes.

Who are we?
We are the House of Commons Petitions Committee. We are a cross-party group of MPs that looks at e-petitions submitted on petition.parliament.uk. We are independent from Government. You can find out more about us and our work on our website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/

You can follow the Petitions Committee on Twitter: @HoCpetitions.

Further information
You can read impartial House of Commons Library information about coronavirus here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/coronavirus/

You can find out more about coronavirus and how you can protect yourself and others here:

www.gov.uk/coronavirus

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

The Government has also created an online service to help you out what you can do if you’re struggling because of coronavirus: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-support

You can read NHS tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus here: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips

Report: The impact of COVID-19 on university students

We have today – Monday 13 July - published our report on the impact of Covid-19 on students and university. This report is a result of our inquiry into this petition, among others.

The report sets out the evidence we have heard from students, university staff, and Government Ministers, and recommends a number of actions we feel the Government needs to take to address the impact of COVID-19 on students and universities.

In the report, the Committee recognises the huge disruption that Covid-19 has had on students’ education, and calls for the Government to take a number of actions, including:
- provide guidance on how students can claim refunds or repeat parts of their courses
- establish an easier system for students who believe they haven’t received the education to which they are entitled to seek a refund
- provide financial support for students who may wish to extend their education; and
- consider providing emergency funding to universities, to support them in refunding eligible students

Read the full report from 00:01 on Monday: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpetitions/527/52702.htm

Original Government response

Government recognises that students are very concerned by this unprecedented situation. We are working with universities and students to support them and enable students to complete their studies.

We recognise that students are very concerned by this unprecedented situation. The Universities Minister has written to universities and students to outline the support that is available to them. We continue to work with the sector to make sure providers are able to make all reasonable efforts to enable students to continue their studies - including moving learning online - so that teaching and assessment can proceed, and qualifications can be awarded. Providers are already making these arrangements and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has published good practice guidance that is available to all UK higher education providers.

Government recognises the challenges facing students and supports them in their desire to continue receiving the best possible learning experience from higher education providers. Our first priority is to minimise disruption for both students and providers as far as is possible by ensuring that both tuition and maintenance payments are made as planned by the Student Loans We recognise that students are very concerned by this unprecedented situation. The Universities Minister has written to universities and students to outline the support that is available to them. We continue to work with the sector to make sure providers are able to make all reasonable efforts to enable students to continue their studies - including moving learning online - so that teaching and assessment can proceed, and qualifications can be awarded. Providers are already making these arrangements and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has published good practice guidance that is available to all UK higher education providers.

Government recognises the challenges facing students and supports them in their desire to continue receiving the best possible learning experience from higher education providers. Our first priority is to minimise disruption for both students and providers as far as is possible by ensuring that both tuition and maintenance payments are made as planned by the Student Loans Company, irrespective of whether teaching has moved online. We will be continuously reviewing the situation and will consider further options to support students once third term tuition fee payments have been made.

We believe that students should be at the heart of the higher education system. It would not be in most student’s interests to cancel teaching and make them repeat the year: for the vast majority of students, moving teaching and assessment online and allowing them to complete the year is the most appropriate option. The Office for Students (OfS), the regulator in England, has committed to protecting students throughout the present crisis by working with providers to develop practical ways to maintain teaching quality and standards, enable adequate provision of exams and assessment, and support financial sustainability. Providers are already making these arrangements and the Government is in close contact with the sector on delivery. Further information about the actions the OfS will take to support providers to maintain standards and teaching quality will be issued shortly.

Students are entitled to make a complaint if they feel that their university has not taken sufficient steps to appropriately respond to this situation. In the first instance, students should speak to their university to see if they can resolve their complaint. If this is not possible or if they are unhappy with the outcome, they can take their complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). The OIA covers student complaints concerning higher education providers in England and Wales.

Government has previously responded to a petition concerning compensation for strike action at universities. The response to this petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300528

Department for Education

This response was given on 16 April 2020. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

Petitions Committee to question Universities Minister on the impact of Coronavirus on 11 June

The Petitions Committee will later this week virtually question Minister for Universities, Michelle Donelan MP, as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to be felt across the higher education sector.

Watch the session live here from 15:30 on Thursday 11 June: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/5859f062-7772-40c3-83c5-055ae87df55d

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, will lead the session, which will include questions on some of the vital issues being raised by students through petitions as the coronavirus crisis continues to frustrate and wreak havoc with the higher education system across the UK.

This latest evidence session comes as unprecedented numbers continue to engage with Parliament and the Petitions Committee on this issue – with tens of thousands of people sharing their views and concerns through social media, including more than 28,000 respondents to a survey on the issue.

In an evidence hearing organised by the Petitions Committee last month, Sophie Quinn, a student and the author of the initial petition, told Members how students felt “angry” and “frustrated” as Coronavirus prevented them from getting the education they had paid for. The University of Liverpool student told the Committee "this whole year has been disrupted by strikes and the coronavirus,” before adding that students feel “completely ignored” over the issue.

Read Sophie’s petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/302855

Find out more: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/146769/petitions-committee-to-question-universities-minister-on-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-university-students/

Update on Petitions Committee’s work on students, universities and covid-19

Last week, the Petitions Committee heard oral evidence from the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP, about the effect of coronavirus on students.

You can watch the session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIxlS5yuzHE&feature=youtu.be
Find out more here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/146769/petitions-committee-to-question-universities-minister-on-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-university-students/

During the session, the Committee pressed the Minister for answers to some of the vital issues raised by students through petitions, as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc with the UK's higher education system.

Next steps
The Committee will now produce a report, bringing together everything you have shared with us on Facebook and through online surveys, as well as the formal evidence it has received.

The Committee will report its findings and make recommendations to the Government, who will then need to respond and decide whether and how to act on them. You will receive another update as soon as the release date for the report is confirmed.

In the meantime, you can contact your local MP to encourage them to put pressure on the Government on your behalf. Find their contact details here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

Once again, the Committee would like to thank everyone who has shared their experiences. This information has been vital in informing the work of the Committee so far, and will inform our recommendations to the Government.

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