A good education is worth its weight in the textbooks you buy with your lecture’s names on them. But when things get turned on their head, and you can no longer get in the classroom, should you get a refund? A few hundred thousand think you do. By Michael Delaney.
A wave of online petitions has gained momentum in recent months, with dissatisfied students demanding their money back.
The petitions’ requests range from refunds for only the 3rd semester, to others demanding the wasted money on rent for the time universities have been closed. And in fairness, if you’d sunk £9,000+ a year into something that you felt you were no longer receiving, you might be in the same boat.
One of the petitions has gained nearly 350k signatures, demanding the reimbursement of this year’s fees due to strikes and Covid-19.
As a result, a report has been commissioned to look into the matter, taking survey results from the NUS and speaking to students about their concerns.
The report found that 78% students were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the quality of the education they had received since the lockdown began.
The report acknowledges that the majority of institutions have gone above and beyond to adapt to the crisis, taking courses online, providing remote support and making adjustments were possible for students to still sit exams and finish their courses.
However, not everyone felt that they received value for their money, as one user made clear on the Student Room: “Half my lecturers just stuck up last year’s recordings”
Another said: “I am struggling to complete assignments as I have not been taught virtually anything and I really struggle to learn as effectively online.”
But it’s not just missing lectures and tutorials that has got students unhappy. It’s also the access to the facilities and other perks of being in the university hub.
Universities offer a range of opportunities from practical spaces, like laboratories and studios for hands-on education, as well as networking and career guidance, before we start to even count the mere social advantages.
University is an experience that extends way beyond the classroom. Surely, this is as much a part of the decision making process that goes into paying for tuition fees?
The report concludes that students are protected by consumer law. If they do not feel that they have received the value for money they were expecting, then they have a genuine case to ask for a refund or resit the term.
The difficulty, however, as the report delves into the practicalities of this. What is the threshold and how can we ensure complaints are dealt with consistently?
The report has called on the govt to work with the universities to establish a clear process that would both clarify the circumstances and extent of a refund, but also a simple process for students to submit a claim.
So what can you do if you’re a student and you feel that you’ve been short changed?
As the report also concludes, requesting a refund is your right as a consumer. So, we’d recommend the following:
Step 1: contact your university admin team and politely ask them what the process would be for requesting a refund.
Step 2: add your name to a petition. Here is the most popular one so far.
Step 3: write to your MP. If you feel like there hasn’t been enough action, call for it. Need some help – we’ve got the perfect guide for you here.
The future of universities remains shaky.
In the UK alone, it is being predicted that Covid-19 could lead to over 200,000 fewer first-year students attending university this autumn, which could cost universities £2.5 billion.
But is the current format sustainable or even the best we can achieve in the digital age?
If universities can argue against providing refunds and that they are capable of delivering the same quality of education, could this mean that higher education is in need of a shake up?
What are your views?
Do you think universities should be providing refunds? Or do you think it’s time to innovate the higher education sector?