It should be easier for students to get COVID tuition fee refunds, say MPs

Universities can’t refuse refunds just because lots of people are asking for them, the report says

It’s too difficult for students whose uni teaching has been affected by lockdown to get their tuition fees back, MPs have said.

The current system – where students complain first to their uni and then to the uni watchdog – is not “adequate, or indeed practicable, given the potential scale of take-up”.

Instead, there needs to be a “new system which enables all students to easily seek” tuition fee refunds.

After 350,000 people signed a petition demanding students get their money back because of lockdown, MPs on Parliament’s Petitions Committee looked into the situation.

tuition fee refund

High demand for refunds on tuition fees is not a good enough reason for unis to refuse, MPs have said

There are worries that unis may refuse refunds if too many people ask, because the amount of money they’d have to pay back could cripple them. Even before the question of refunds, lockdown had put financial pressure on unis, with experts warning some could go bust if coronavirus keeps students away.

“That is not, however, a reason to prevent students from receiving any refunds to which they are entitled,” says the report.

So far universities have taken a hard line on refunds, insisting teaching has been up to standard. Bristol said students hadn’t missed enough tuition to warrant a fees refund, while Sussex issued a blanket refusal to students hoping to get their money back.

The firm stance had been mirrored so far by the government, saying students shouldn’t “ordinarily” expect any refunds.

However, the new report offered some hope for students, saying some were likely entitled to refunds, but that reimbursement won’t be universal: “If a university has failed to provide the education a student has paid for, the student is entitled to a refund from that university.”

Students told Parliament’s Petitions Committee that in some cases lecturers were simply uploading previous year’s lectures, and that online teaching was not up to scratch.

The government should provide extra funding to unis to help them pay for refunds, added the report, noting that universities should be the ones to pay for any reimbursements.

Read more about the battle over uni tuition fee refunds:

Students shouldn’t expect tuition fee refunds, warns the government

You could sue your university for poor online teaching during the pandemic

Over 150,000 sign petition demanding this year’s tuition fees are reimbursed