Petition Require universities to refund students during any strike action

Strikes at university are unfair to students, who are the main source of revenue for universities. The Government needs to step in and require universities to reimburse tuition fees for any period of strike action. Students from all backgrounds need the Government to ensure they are treated fairly.

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Students must pay fees in full even when academic support and lectures are lost due to strike action. Requiring refunds for students due to strike action will create financial incentives for universities to address the concerns raised by employees, in order to prevent future strikes.

We urge the Government to require that universities reimburse the fees corresponding to refused services.

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Government responded

This response was given on 30 March 2022

The Government encourages universities to deliver the high-quality teaching that students have paid for and to consider mitigating the impact of lost teaching.

We recognise that students are very concerned about tuition fees following strike action. We share that concern and do not condone these strikes. And while we acknowledge that they are autonomous institutions, independent from the Government, universities should deliver the high-quality teaching that students have paid for and expect.

If necessary, that should mean extra teaching being scheduled to replace that lost due to strike action. A fundamental part of the university experience is face-to-face learning, where students make connections, relationships and develop soft skills. Students have been through enough since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – and we should all be striving to make their return to campus as smooth as possible.

It may be appropriate for universities to issue fee refunds, but this is a matter for them and may depend on individual contractual arrangements with students.

The Government has been clear that universities are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop. Universities should seek to ensure all students, regardless of their background, can access their studies remotely during strike action where face to face teaching is not available. The OfS monitors online teaching to ensure standards are met, and there is an established process in place for students with concerns about their education. All universities will have in place procedures for handling student complaints and academic appeals.

The Government has set in place a framework so that where a student complaint cannot be resolved through the institution’s processes, the student can ask for their complaint to be reviewed by an independent body - the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). The OIA's website gives details about eligibility criteria and how to make a complaint at: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/students/can-you-complain-to-us/. The OIA has also issued specific guidance on its approach to complaints arising from strike action - OIA briefing note: complaints arising from strike action - OIAHE.

Students can also raise a notification with the Office for Students (OfS) about registered HE providers (their register includes all the universities in England). These providers must meet certain requirements, as laid down in conditions of registration. If a student believes that an HE provider is not meeting these requirements, they can send a notification via this link: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/for-students/ofs-and-students/notifications/. The notification process is not used to resolve an individual complaint between a student and their HE provider, but permits OfS to monitor registered HE providers compliance with the conditions of registration.

The Government cannot become involved in individual disputes between English HE providers and their students, nor does it review OIA decisions. This is to safeguard the OIA's independence.

Department for Education

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