Closed petition Refund university rent and tuition fees due to coronavirus

Due to unforeseen circumstances in the foreseeable future, we will have to leave university accommodation due to growing coronavirus concerns. Also, we have missed most of the university year due to strikes, half terms etc already.

More details

University students do not have much money to begin with and tuition fees and rent is extremely expensive and should therefore, be rightfully reimbursed as the coronavirus is meaning that universities are having so shut across the country.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 June 2020

The Government encourages universities and private halls providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period.

Read the response in full

We recognise that students are very concerned by this unprecedented situation, but universities are autonomous institutions, independent from government, and have sole responsibility for making their own business decisions. Universities also have diverse operating models and their financial situations will be different.

Government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation, whether it is managed by universities or private companies.

Rent refunds are a matter for the higher education providers and private companies that students contract with for their accommodation. Government is not considering using taxpayers’ money to reimburse any parties in relation to rent paid for periods when rooms are unused.

The Government encourages universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of universities and large companies have waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts.

Private student accommodation providers who refund rents may be able to access the support packages announced by the Chancellor to protect businesses (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19)

Students who are tenants with individual private landlords can discuss the possibility of an early release from their tenancy agreement. Students impacted by Covid-19 who rent from private landlords can now be assured that eviction proceedings cannot begin against them for 3 months. As a result, no renter in private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time. For further information and the specific legislation please see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/7/schedule/29 (Students renting under licence, as applies in most halls, are ineligible for this particular support.)

The negotiation of rent waivers and early releases from contracts is a matter between the parties concerned.

Students will continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for the remainder of the current, 2019/20, academic year.

Students with a part-time employment contract should speak to their employer about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been set up to help pay staff wages and keep people in employment (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19)

We have also asked that HE providers pay particular attention to the additional financial hardships that are being faced by student staff who have been reliant on income from campus-based jobs at this time.

Many providers will have hardship funds to support students in times of need, including emergencies. The expectation is that where any student requires additional support, providers will support them through their own hardship funds.

We have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April and May, towards student hardship funds.

It is also important to stress that accommodation providers should not have previously instructed any students to leave – if an accommodation provider did formally instruct a student to leave the property, then it would not be acceptable to continue to charge student rents.

Students who think their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/ , https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain and https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml

As regards tuition fees, 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.

Government has previously responded to a petition concerning reimbursement of tuition fees. The response to this petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/302855?reveal_response=yes#response-threshold

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/304855)

Other parliamentary business

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

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/

Original Government Response

The Government encourages universities and private halls providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period.

We recognise that students are very concerned by this unprecedented situation, but universities are autonomous institutions, independent from government, and have sole responsibility for making their own business decisions. Universities also have diverse operating models and their financial situations will be different.

The Government encourages universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of universities and large companies have waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts.

Private student accommodation providers who refund rents may be able to access the support packages announced by the Chancellor to protect businesses (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19)

Students who are tenants with individual private landlords can discuss the possibility of an early release from their tenancy agreement. Students impacted by Covid-19 who rent from private landlords can now be assured that eviction proceedings cannot begin against them for 3 months. As a result, no renter in private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time. For further information and the specific legislation please see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/7/schedule/29 (Students renting under licence, as applies in most halls, are ineligible for this particular support).

The negotiation of rent waivers and early releases from contracts is a matter between the parties concerned.

Students will continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for the remainder of the current, 2019/20, academic year.

Students with a part-time employment contract should speak to their employer about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been set up to help pay staff wages and keep people in employment (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19)

We have also asked that HE providers pay particular attention to the additional financial hardships that are being faced by student staff who have been reliant on income from campus-based jobs at this time.

Many providers will have hardship funds to support students in times of need, including emergencies. The expectation is that where any student requires additional support, providers will support them through their own hardship funds.

We have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April and May, towards student hardship funds.

It is also important to stress that accommodation providers should not have previously instructed any students to leave – if an accommodation provider did formally instruct a student to leave the property, then it would not be acceptable to continue to charge student rents.

Students who think their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/ , https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain and https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml

Government has previously responded to a petition concerning reimbursement of tuition fees. The response to this petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/302855?reveal_response=yes#response-threshold

Department for Education

This response was given on 19 May 2020. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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

MPs investigate the economic impact of coronavirus

A group of MPs called the Treasury Committee is investigating the economic impact of coronavirus, including looking at support for businesses, employees and self-employed people.

The Committee launched the first stage of its inquiry on 18 March to look at the speed, effectiveness and reach of the Government’s and Bank of England’s immediate financial response to coronavirus.

During this stage, the Committee pushed the Government on the lack of support for the self-employed, on lenders requesting personal guarantees on business interruption loans, and on the issue of large firms struggling to get support, including in order to retain their employees.

On 24 April the Committee launched the next stage of its inquiry, in which it will examine the effectiveness, cost and sustainability of the Government’s and Bank of England’s support packages. The Committee will also examine the impact on the economy and different sectors, the implications for public finances, and how the Government can work towards a sustained recovery.

You can find out about the inquiry, including how to submit your views and details of meetings the Committee is holding, here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/224/economic-impact-of-coronavirus/

The Treasury Committee is a cross-party group of MPs and is independent of the Government. The Committee looks at and questions the Government about matters relating to the spending of public money and economic policy.

You can find out more about the Treasury Committee on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/158/treasury-committee

You can follow the Treasury Committee on Twitter: @CommonsTreasury

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

Has coronavirus affected your business in Wales?

A group of MPs called the Welsh Affairs Committee is looking into the impact of coronavirus on the Welsh economy, and would like to hear your views.

If your business in Wales has been affected by coronavirus, complete this survey to tell the Welsh Affairs Committee how the coronavirus outbreak has affected you: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=nt3mHDeziEC-Xo277ASzSsdf6aRbb_hHi61kcnJ3-KJUNEpKUVQ3ODkxU0tTQUdVV05ZMFhYRFozRy4u

The survey should only take 10 minutes to complete, and closes at 5pm on 15 May.

The Welsh Affairs Committee is a cross-party group of MPs and is independent of the Government. The Committee looks at and questions the Government about matters that have an impact on Wales.

You can find out more about the Welsh Affairs Committee on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/162/welsh-affairs-committee/

You can follow the Welsh Affairs Committee on Twitter: @CommonsWelshAff

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

Further Information

You may also be interested to know that because of the large number of petitions that have been started in relation to coronavirus, the Petitions Committee has been questioning the Government about its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Find out more and watch the Committee put questions suggested by petitioners to Government Ministers and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/145767/committee-question-deputy-chief-medical-officer-and-ministers-on-coronavirus-response/

Read letters from the Committee asking further questions of Government Ministers: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/192/the-governments-response-to-coronavirus/publications/

Visit our website to find news and information on other activity in relation to coronavirus and other issues: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/

You can read impartial analysis of the Government response to coronavirus and policy developments here: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/coronavirus/

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 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

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.

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

Petitions Committee publishes Government response to its coronavirus university report

The Petitions Committee has published the Government's response to its report on the impact of COVID-19 on university students.

In its response, the Government accepts that students should be able to take action if they are unsatisfied with their university’s response to the pandemic. However, the Government rejected the Committee’s key recommendation for a new centralised system which enables all students to easily seek a full or partial refund of their tuition fees, or to repeat part of their course.

Find out more, including reaction from Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/119066/Petitions-government-response-covid-19-university-students-19-21.

You can also get updates on our work on this issue by following us on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions.