Students: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 17th June 2020.

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Photo of Stuart Anderson Stuart Anderson Conservative, Wolverhampton South West

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department has plans to reimburse students that have paid deposits on (a) private and (b) university housing for the 2020-21 academic year and whose education may be disrupted as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

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

The government encourages universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about accommodation charges for this period.

Information published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) gives guidance (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cma-to-investigate-concerns-about-cancellation-policies-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic/the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-consumer-contracts-cancellation-and-refunds) on the COVID-19 outbreak’s effects on consumer contracts and may be helpful to students, including those who have already paid deposits for accommodation.

The guidance sets out the CMA’s view on how the law operates to help consumers understand their rights and to help businesses treat their customers fairly. Students may be entitled to refunds from certain accommodation providers depending on the terms of their contract and their particular circumstances. If students need help, organisations such as Citizens Advice offer a free service, providing information and support.

Students who have already signed an accommodation contract for next year and, because of COVID-19, think it may no longer fit their requirements, should talk directly to their housing provider.

If a student thinks that their accommodation provider is treating them unfairly, they can raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice as long as their provider is a code member. The codes can be found at: https://www.thesac.org.uk/; https://www.unipol.org.uk/the-code/how-to-complain and: https://www.rla.org.uk/about/nrla-code-of-practice.shtml.

We have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable higher education (HE) providers to draw on existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding worth around £23 million per month for June and July, towards student hardship funds.

We have also asked that HE providers pay particular attention to the additional financial hardships that are being faced by student staff who have been reliant on income from campus-based jobs at this time.

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