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Students: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 46198, tabled on 12 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that university students receive value for money from student fees during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

22 May 2020

The government recognises the challenges facing students and supports them in their desire to continue receiving the best possible learning experience from our higher education providers. This is a difficult and uncertain time for students, but we are working with the sector to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies.

The Office for Students (OfS), the regulator in England, has committed to protecting students throughout the present crisis and has produced guidance on practical ways in which students can complete their studies whilst ensuring quality and standards are upheld. This guidance is clear that standards must be maintained - further details are available here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-quality-and-standards-during-coronavirus-pandemic/. The government is also working closely with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education to ensure students continue to leave university with qualifications that have real value, reflect their hard work and allow people to progress.

We have seen some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by higher education providers across the country and the sector is working hard to provide learning materials for the summer and autumn terms. Our priority now is to maintain the integrity of higher education qualifications and the achievement of students’ learning aims. The government expects universities to continue delivering a high quality academic experience and help students to achieve qualifications that they and employers will value.

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 which help students progress their qualifications. If providers are unable to facilitate good online tuition, then they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms 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 students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers based in England or Wales can contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to ask them to consider their complaint.