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Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have commenced strikes due to disputes relating to pensions, pay and working conditions. These strikes are due to commence for a period of 14 days from 20.02.2020 to 13.03.2020. This will effect countless students over 74 universities in the UK.
The UCU reports that they have been largely supported by students in their decision. However, this still leaves students, who pay significant amounts in fees each year, in a difficult position and without the services that they have paid for.
What can students do?
Students should, in the first instance, approach their university to see if they are able to address the complaint or potentially offer compensation. If this does not address the issues, then students may wish to escalate the complaint via the university’s formal complaints procedure to seek redress; which may include compensation. Given that most students spend at least £9,250 per year in fees, it is reasonable to make a complaint and seek a partial refund.
Students are customers. Customers who do not receive the goods or services they receive should be entitled to a refund for services they do not receive.
We have seen decisions in the past where University’s refuse to pay compensation. If this is the case, then students in England and Wales may escalate their complaint with the Office of Independent Adjudicator (OIA).
There have been students who have brought complaints with the OIA who have obtained compensation; one involving an international student who brought a successful complaint with the OIA. The international student in question complained to the University about teaching hours that has been missed during industrial action in 2018. The University did not uphold the complaint as it claimed that the issue in question (strikes) were outside of their control (a force majeure clause in their terms and conditions).
The student in question therefore escalated their complaint the OIA. The OIA reviewed the student’s complaint and held that the University failed to make up for the students lost learning and that students should expect lectures and seminars lead by academics.
The student in question was awarded a refund of £1,283.75 in tuition fees (see link below).
Complaints brought during the last strikes in 2018 resulted in students being awarded (in total) more than £650,00 due to refunds. However, the amount of compensation that could be reasonably sought will all depend on the individual circumstances of the student in question.
In addition to assisting with complaints, our university solicitors can assist with:
- University Complaints;
- Academic Appeals;
- Fitness to Practice;
- PhD Appeals (including cases of inadequate supervision or resources);
- Litigation – breach of contract and/or discrimination claims;
- Discrimination claims;
- Complaints to the OIA.
If you would like to discuss your university law dispute in more detail, please contact us on 0333 202 7175.