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Universities: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL9058, tabled on 12 October 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the restricted access to teaching and part-time employment opportunities experienced by university students in areas affected by additional COVID-19 restrictions,what plans they have to limit the charges those universities operating within such areas can make on their students.

Answered on

23 October 2020

This is a difficult time for students, as it is for people in society more widely, but we are working with the higher education (HE) sector to make sure that all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies.

Universities and other HE providers are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees. In deciding what level of fee to charge in the current circumstances, HE institutions will of course want to ensure that they can continue to deliver courses which are fit for purpose and help students pursue their qualifications.

The government expects universities and other HE providers to continue delivering a high-quality academic experience. If students have concerns about their experience, they should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at institutions in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

My hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, wrote to HE institutions ?on 26 March to ask that they pay particular attention to the additional challenges being faced by staff and students who have been reliant on income from campus-based jobs at this time.

We have worked with the Office for Students, the HE regulator in England, to clarify that universities and other HE institutions can draw upon existing funding from the student premium to increase their hardship funds for students. Students can access this support if they are experiencing particular financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19.

Our system of HE tiers, as set out in guidance, intends to help universities identify the appropriate restrictions to impose on their educational provision in response to an outbreak in their area. This is particularly important when there is a change to the local COVID alert level. This guidance is available via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

HE providers should continue work with their local public health teams to control or manage any outbreak. When a university is considering moving between the HE tiers, they should engage their local director of public health and inform the Department for Education if the decision is to move to tier 3 or above.