‘You deserve a refund’: Lancaster UCU tells students they haven’t got what they paid for

‘You are real people, like all of us, who expect to receive the service you have paid for’

Lancaster UCU (Universities and Colleges Union) has said that students should ask for a refund on their tuition fees from this year.

The UCU stated students “have the right to receive value for money for the huge tuition fees” they pay, and that expecting a service does not make students “consumerist” or “ignorant of the broader value of education”, instead telling them they are “real people”.

As well as the ongoing marking boycott which has left final-year Lancs students unsure whether they will graduate, all students have so far missed 32 days of teaching this year due to the ongoing dispute between Lancaster UCU and the university over pay and working conditions.

In a blog post shared on their Twitter last Friday, they outlined their reasons for the demand.

The union in their blog post: “We know that our students are thoughtful and committed people who understand the meaning of education.  You crave learning and the recognition of your achievements.  When we talk with students, you understand your education as part of broader society; a society they want to contribute to, using what they learn at university.

“Students do, however, have the right to receive value for money for the huge tuition fees you pay.  This does not make you instrumental, consumerist or ignorant of the broader value of education.  This simply makes you real people, like all of us, who expect to receive the service you have paid for.

“Lancaster University is not paying its staff their full wages during the Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB), and saves on salary when we are on strike. But the university is still charging students full fees for the services provided by those staff.”

The article explains that the UCU members have engaged in a MAB, which is legal under the term “action short of a strike” (ASOS). Yet, the university has made a 50 per cent deduction in their salaries as a response.

It questions whether students would think this deduction is fair, if they are not doing 50 per cent of their work, before going on to say, “The university’s own workload model shows that marking – by their own metrics – makes up far less than 50 per cent of our formal workload.  The University’s own FAQs regarding the MAB clearly acknowledges that they have decreed some of our work to be voluntary as a result of MAB action: ‘The University reserves the right not to pay you for any other work you voluntarily choose to do while participating in ASOS’.”

The UCU explained its members have not declared themselves to be working voluntarily, instead continuing to perform all of their tasks, and sometimes more, other than marking and assessment, during the MAB. The union then question how the yniversity justifies the 50 per cent denial in their salaries.

The union said: “More importantly, how can the university justify the following contradictory positions:

  • Their own workload model puts time spent at assessment as well below 50 per cent of the average academic workload
  • Yet they deduct 50 per cent of our pay
  • They tell us our work is deemed voluntary
  • They are unable to run assessment and quality assurance procedures according to their own standard regulations.
  • They continue to charge you full fees.”

The article continues, explaining that the UCU understands there are students on either side of their debate, before saying: “But in either case, you have not received what you paid for. Asking the university to repay fees in lieu of lost services is your right, and does not necessarily mean you do not support the industrial action that has led to this situation.

“Where has the money gone?  That is your money.  You deserve to have a refund.”

Lancaster University has been contacted for comment.

Featured image via @LancasterUCU on Twitter

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