Last night the government announced a third national lockdown from Tuesday January 5th until at least mid-February, this has left students with lots of unanswered questions.
Who Can Go Back To University?
Students studying practical subjects where face-to-face teaching is required are allowed to return to university, if you are studying a practical course that is not listed below your classes will be conducted online.
- Social Work
- Education (Initial Teacher Training)
- Subjects allied to medicine and healthcare
- Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).
The full list can be found here.
Other courses have been told not to return and start online learning until mid-February at least. Your university will contact you with updates and let you know when you can return and the resources available to support you.
Advice for students is to remain where you are if possible and conduct your studies from the household you’re currently in. You are however allowed to return to university if you have nowhere else to live or for mental health reasons.
Students returning to university will be required to take two rapid COVID-19 tests days apart or isolate for 10 days when coming back to ensure teaching is as safe as possible.
Once at university students will be expected to follow lockdown rules and social distance, they will be able to meet up in groups of more than one household as part of education or training.
Do Students Have To Continue To Pay Rent?
Students have been instructed not to return to university accomodation, but are still being expected to pay for the accommodation, both university run, and privately owned. Rent was already a topic of contention with over 3000 students from 31 universities threatening to withhold rent in December, the number is expected to rise rapidly with the government’s announcement. Students are calling for a reduction in rent and for more flexibility with ending residency contracts.
Before yesterday's announcement, a staggered return to campus was expected to go ahead, with a number of universities agreeing to rent reductions and discounts including the University of Bristol, the University of Cumbria, and Manchester Metropolitan University, you can see the full list here. It's likely that more universities will follow suit in light of new government restrictions. Reductions are offered at the discretion of each university, contact your accomodation team to find out more.
If you're in private accomodation scrutinise your tenancy clause, negotiate with your landlord, and check if you qualify for any government support.
Will There Be Tutition Fee Refunds?
Students are calling for a tuition fee refund as they feel they are not getting the quality of teaching they're paying for, with a move to online learning instead of face-to-face teaching or blended learning.
In November a petition calling for partial tuition fee refunds reached over 200,000 signatures, and was debated in parliament in November 2020. Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, said:
"The government only sets maximum fees, it doesn't set a minimum so it is up to universities if they want and believe that they're not providing adequate learning that is up to that value, they could themselves issue a discount."
The government has no current plans to issue refunds, you will need to present a case to your university about why your teaching methods and facilities are inadequate and why you deserve a refund. Find out how to complain to your university and get compensation here.
You could also contact the ombudsman service, The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, if they think your claim is justified they will contact your university and work to reach a solution.