With results day and new academic terms looming, Fiona asked the Secretary of State for Education at the end of July what steps were being taken to ensure that university students received value for money during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. See the full question and answer below:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government is taking to ensure that students receive value for money for university courses during the covid-19 lockdown restrictions."
Michelle Donelan MP, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, responded:
"This is a difficult and uncertain time for students, but the government is working with the higher education sector to make sure that all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies. We have seen some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by providers.
The government expects universities to continue delivering a high-quality academic experience and to help students to achieve qualifications that they and employers value. We expect that higher education providers will be open for the autumn term, with a blend of online teaching and in-person tuition that they consider to be appropriate and in line with public health advice. To help providers make informed decisions about their provision in ways which minimise the risk to staff and students, the government has issued guidance for providers on reopening campuses and buildings: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.
The government is working with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, professional bodies and the Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator in England, to ensure that students continue to leave university with qualifications that have real value. The OfS has produced guidance on practical ways in which students can complete their studies whilst ensuring that quality and standards are upheld. The guidance is available at the following link: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-quality-and-standards-during-coronavirus-pandemic/.
It is an OfS registration condition that providers must deliver well-designed courses that provide a high-quality academic experience for all students and that enable a student’s achievement to be reliably assessed. If providers are unable to facilitate good online tuition, they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms that 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.
If a student is concerned about their education, they should speak to their higher education provider in the first instance. The government expects student complaints and appeals processes to be operated flexibly, accessibly and sympathetically by higher education institutions to resolve any concerns. Students who are not satisfied with their provider’s final response can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint if their institution is based in England or Wales."