To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to require universities to provide partial refunds of tuition fees to students who are affected by the disruptions caused by industrial action.
17 December 2021
The quality of higher education and the learning and opportunities it offers for students are priorities for this government.
The government believes that students should be at the heart of the higher education system. Therefore, we set up the Office for Students (OfS) to regulate the higher education sector in England, protect student rights and ensure the sector is delivering real value for money.
The OfS expects providers to do all they can to avoid disruption for students. Prior to these strikes starting, the OfS wrote to universities outlining how they will uphold standards and protect student interests. They have made clear that they expect universities to abide by the conditions of registration, maintain the delivery of higher education and minimise disruption to students in the event of any industrial action. The OfS also highlighted providers’ obligations under consumer protection law in relation to the impact of industrial action. The OfS published a statement about its expectations of providers during industrial action, available here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/ofs-responds-to-industrial-action/
Higher education providers are independent, autonomous institutions responsible for their own decisions about the terms and conditions of employment and pensions. The Pensions Regulator is currently working with the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), Universities UK and a range of other stakeholders as they work to find a long-term solution to the funding challenges faced by the USS.
We expect higher education providers to consider their obligations under consumer law and students’ consumer rights carefully, including during industrial action. This includes ensuring that a range of appropriate remedies and mitigations are available, which may include financial compensation, to prevent and minimise the effects of any strike action upon their students.
If students have concerns, they can complain through their provider’s complaints process. If they are unhappy with the outcome, students have the right to make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). The OIA has published a briefing note about its approach to complaints by students affected by the industrial action, available here: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/resources-and-publications/briefing-notes/oia-briefing-note-complaints-arising-from-strike-action/. The OIA has also published case summaries relating to industrial action complaints they have handled, available here: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/resources-and-publications/case-summaries/.
On 19 April 2021, the OIA announced the introduction of new rules to streamline the Large Groups Complaints process. This should help the OIA to manage similar complaints from large groups of students from a single higher education provider, allowing complaints to be considered collectively and for individual complaints to be added to a larger group.