To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent discussions he has had with universities regarding the potential effect on those institutions of a reduction in undergraduate tuition fees where the quality of the course has been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic.
2 February 2021
I recognise that the COVID-19 outbreak has brought, and will continue to bring, very significant challenges for higher education (HE) providers, including financially. This is why I established the HE taskforce which is made up of representatives from across the sector to discuss COVID-19 related challenges which universities and other HE providers are facing.
Alongside the taskforce, I have been regularly meeting with representatives of the HE sector, including university Vice Chancellors, the National Union of Students, the Union for Colleges and Universities and the devolved administrations.
Universities are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees, up to a maximum of £9,250 for standard full-time undergraduate courses offered by approved (fee cap) providers. However, 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. We have seen some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by providers across the country.
If students have concerns about the quality of their course, they should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.
The changing COVID-19 situation will continue to present challenges and the nature and extent of impact will remain variable across the sector. The Office of Students is monitoring the situation and the Department for Education is working closely with it and sector representative bodies to maintain an up-to-date understanding of issues arising during the COVID-19 outbreak.