Closed petition Tuition Fee Compensation for International Students in UK Universities

The UK Government must compensate International students for tuition fees for the academic year 2020/21. Lockdowns have had a massive impact on quality of teaching and student experience of International students. It is vital for UK Government to provide at least partial compensation.

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Universities have failed to provide adequate teaching due to national lockdowns, and many universities cannot afford to refund these students. Therefore, it is necessary for UK Government to compensate International students, who have added over £20bn/year to the UK economy over the years (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42637971).

International students could not return/arrive to campus due to abrupt changing UK Government guidelines which has severely impacted their university experience.

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Government responded

This response was given on 6 May 2021

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.

Read the response in full

This is a difficult time for all students and Government supports the desire of everyone in higher education (HE) that international students continue receiving the best possible learning experience, while recognising the wide range of issues that have arisen from the pandemic. We continue to recognise the huge value of international students to UK higher education and are proud that so many decide to study here.

The Government has been clear that higher education providers are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop. Providers should review whether students have received the teaching and assessment they were promised and have regard to guidance about their consumer protection obligations and should seek to ensure all students, can access their studies remotely.

The Office for Students (OfS) has stated that providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and academic standards, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through in-person teaching, online learning, or a combination of both. The OfS is taking very seriously the potential impacts of the pandemic on teaching and learning. The OfS guidance on student consumer protection during the pandemic is available here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/for-students/student-and-consumer-protection-during-coronavirus/

The OfS also has a notifications process through which students can raise a concern about their institution relating to the OfS’ regulatory requirements. A guide to this process is available: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/new-guide-to-help-students-raise-concerns/

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. Due to the individualised nature of student contracts and student circumstances, students should first raise their concerns with their provider. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to consider their complaint.

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, the government has put in place many measures to support individuals impacted by financial hardship. In particular, the Department has made available an additional £85 million of hardship funding for HE students in England for this academic year (2020/21). HE providers have flexibility in how they distribute the funding to students, in a way that best prioritises those in greatest need – this is available to all students, including international Providers are also able to use funding, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.

If an international student needs to request access to hardship funds through their provider due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they can be confident that they can express these concerns to their provider without any impact on their immigration status.

The Department has worked closely with the HE sector, including international stakeholders such as the British Council and Universities UK International (UUKi), to increase communications and messaging for international students. Minister Donelan has written to international students directly throughout the pandemic, providing up-to-date guidance and setting-out the support available for students, including access to hardship funds.. Universities UK International have established a sector taskforce and are working on guidance to outline best practice to help providers appropriately support their international students.

Under the current circumstances, the Government is showing flexibility to ensure that international students do not have their immigration status negatively impacted by travel restrictions. More information is available online via: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-student-sponsors-migrants-and-short-term-students

To reassure students with specific concerns about their eligibility for the Graduate Route, the UK’s new globally competitive post-study work offer, Government has put in place a number of specific concessions as outlined in the Graduate Route Fact Sheet available via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-student-sponsors-migrants-and-short-term-students This includes concessions to ensure international students who have engaged in distance learning as a result of COVID-19 remain eligible for the Route.

Government believes these concessions will ensure that talented international students do not have a negative outcome through the immigration system due to a circumstance that was beyond their control.

Department for Education

Other parliamentary business

MPs question Government on lost teaching and rent for university students

On Thursday 15 April, MPs asked the Government about its recent announcement on when university students would be able to return to campus, and whether the Government would provide financial compensation to university students for lost teaching and rent during covid-19.

You can watch the question and the Government's response on Parliament TV:
https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/d068cda1-70f8-42c2-9aca-2ce1ed142610?in=10:32:42&out=11:12:59

You can read the question and the Government's response on the Hansard website:
https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-04-15/debates/4AA7E147-B9DA-4E7F-BE59-DD93DB98DAD4/UniversityStudentsCompensationForLostTeachingAndRent
 

Why was the question asked?

If an urgent or important matter arises which an MP believes requires an immediate answer from a government minister, they may apply to ask an urgent question.

Find out more about Urgent Questions here:
https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/urgent-questions/

MPs hold evidence session on covid-19 and higher education

On Wednesday 27 October, MPs on the Education Committee questioned Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan MP and leaders from the sector. The Committee asked about the impact of covid-19 on higher education and how universities have been adapting to the pandemic.

Watch the session: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/270879ab-f237-441d-899a-451531c7ab15

Read a transcript of the session: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1542/universities-and-the-pandemic/publications/

The Committee questioned the Minister and sector leaders on the decision by some universities to continue with aspects of online and remote learning despite an announcement in the summer that in-person teaching could resume.

It questioned them on the effect of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of students and staff, and what is being done to support disadvantaged students, widen participation and improve graduate outcomes.

What are evidence sessions?

Evidence sessions are public meetings with experts, officials or people with personal experiences of the topic being examined. Evidence sessions help Committees to understand how Government policies are working in the real world, and what needs to change to make things better.

What is the Education Committee?

The Education Committee scrutinises the work of the Department for Education and its associated public bodies. It examines government policy, spending and administration on behalf of the electorate and the House of Commons. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

Find out more on its website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/203/education-committee/

You can get updates on its work by following the Committee on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CommonsEd

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

You can also sign up to the UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/