Universities could refund students over the strike disruptions

‘Students should not be disadvantaged academically because of any disruption’

Universities should offer partial tuition fee refunds to students if their learning has been affected by the latest wave of strikes, England’s higher education watchdog – Office for Students – has said.

Yesterday, the UCU’s three-day strike commenced across 58 universities in the UK. Around 50,000 members of the UCU are taking part in the action, which also said it will affect more than a million students in the run-up to Christmas.

The UCU has warned that more strikes could take place in the new year if the row remains unresolved.

However, Nicola Dandridge, the head of the Office for Students, the higher education regulator in England, said universities affected by the industrial action would need to make up for any disruption.

She said: “Universities are subject to consumer protection law, and they should consider how they will make up for any disruption caused by industrial action.

“This might include rescheduling any teaching which is missed, delivering course topics in a different way or considering whether partial refunds of tuition fees are appropriate. Students should not be disadvantaged academically because of any disruption.”

For any students in their final year at university, they will be well aware that this most recent strike is one of many actions taken by the UCU in the past few years. They held a series of walkouts in 2019 and early 2020 over pensions, pay and conditions, which affected universities across the UK. There was also strike action in 2018 amid a row over pensions.

Staff are now striking for three days, from December 1 to December 3, after UCU members backed strike action in two separate disputes, one over pensions and one over pay and working conditions.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said yesterday: “If university managers doubted the determination of staff to change the higher education sector for the better, the numbers of staff on strike today prove they are very sadly mistaken.

“Thousands of dedicated university staff and students are on picket lines, attending demos and marching to demand fair pay, decent pensions and improved working conditions.

“The level of action seen today is just the beginning and university managers now need to wake up and address the very modest demands of staff.

“Otherwise, the potential for more widespread and escalating industrial action in the new year becomes very real.”

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