Universities: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 21st May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Birt Lord Birt Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the success of individual universities in maintaining student courses and contact during the lockdown.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

As my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have both made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19.

Our latest guidance on the impact of COVID-19 is set out below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-schools-and-other-educational-settings.

Teaching, learning and assessment in higher education are not stopping and we are working with the sector to ensure that universities are able to make all reasonable efforts to enable students to continue and complete their studies, for their achievements to be reliably assessed and for qualifications to be awarded securely.

Higher education providers have adapted to the COVID-19 outbreak by rapidly moving teaching, examination and assessment online and all providers are developing their online provision ahead of the next academic year. Individual providers have issued advice and guidance to help support students through the transition to online provision and we are continuing to work closely with the sector, putting student wellbeing at the heart of these discussions. We believe that efforts so far have been largely successful in ensuring continued provision for the majority of students and are grateful to providers for taking such rapid action to ensure continued provision.

Universities offering good online tuition will continue to charge fees. However, the government has been clear that if universities want to charge full fees, they will have to ensure that good-quality courses are delivered which are fit for purpose and help students progress towards their qualifications.

The government’s clear expectation is that providers should make all reasonable efforts to enable students to complete their studies. If institutions are unable to facilitate adequate online tuition then they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms they may need to undergo as a consequence – therefore avoiding effectively charging them twice.

If students are concerned, there is a process in place. They should first raise this with their university. If their concerns are unresolved, students can contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

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