Unsatisfied students should ‘absolutely’ apply for refunds, says universities minster

There have been thousands of refunds issued already

Universities minister Michelle Donelan has said that students should “absolutely” apply for refunds if they are unsatisfied.

In particular, Donelan mentioned where universities are offering low-quality courses or have not returned to face-to-face teaching.

This comes as the Office for Students (OfS) has told universities they “require improvement” if they do not tackle high-drop out rates and improve poor-quality courses.

The student watchdog have already warned that “Mickey Mouse” degrees could be scrapped or lose their funding – basically ones that don’t succeed in getting graduates professional jobs.

Michelle Donelan told The Telegraph: “They are consumers, at the end of the day. They’re paying a substantial amount of money that’s an investment in their own lives. They deserve that appeal right.”

According to Donelan, there have already been “tens of thousands” of refunds issued to students by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator during the pandemic.

She added: “I have had to really say to vice-chancellors, you need to ensure that you are delivering on what you promised to students because, as the prime minister outlined, we’ve got to learn to live with this virus now.

“We’ve got to get back to pre-pandemic life. Risk assessments can’t be used as an excuse not to host face-to-face teaching. Students have been leading the way in the [vaccination] stats.”

Donelan also said she would not defend some vice-chancellor salaries, which she called “eye-watering and staggering”, and said drop-out rates for some courses were as high as 40 per cent.

“Universities try to entice pupils to the front door and say that’s social mobility. Actually, that doesn’t help anybody,” she said.

She added that part of the reason she had entered politics was to ensure that young people were not “hoodwinked” on to courses that were not going to deliver what they expected them to deliver.

The OfS will be setting minimum thresholds for student outcomes, such as how many students complete their degree and what jobs they get. The consultation concludes in March and the new requirements are expected to be in place by the summer.

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