To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure university students who are required to extend finishing their studies to autumn 2021 as a result of the covid-19 outbreak receive additional financial support for tuition and living expenses.
It is a key priority of the government to ensure that as many students graduate on time this year and we are working closely with other government departments including the Department of Health and Social Care, to ensure this.
We also recognise that this is a difficult and uncertain time for students, but we are working with the higher education (HE) sector to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies. If providers are unable to facilitate good online or in-person tuition, they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms they may need to undergo as a consequence – avoiding effectively charging them twice.
Eligible full-time undergraduate students whose universities require them to extend their studies in the current 2020/21 academic year up until 31 August 2021 will qualify for means-tested long courses loans for the additional period of study to help them with their living costs.
Eligible full-time students who will need to retake either all or part of a year of study in the academic year 2021/22 from September 2021 onwards, may qualify for additional tuition fee loan support for their repeat study in the academic year 2021/22. Full-time undergraduate students qualify for fee loan support for the length of the course, plus one extra year if needed, less any years of previous study. A further year of fee loan support in addition to the standard entitlement can be paid in certain circumstances where students need to repeat a year of their current course for compelling personal reasons (which may include reasons associated with the COVID-19 outbreak). In addition, eligible students will qualify for partially-means tested loans for living costs for a repeat year or part-year of study.
Universities and other HE providers are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by regulations. In deciding to keep charging full fees, HE providers will of course want to ensure that they can continue to deliver courses which are fit for purpose and help students progress their qualifications.
It is a registration condition of the Office for Students (OfS) that HE providers must deliver well-designed courses that provide a high-quality academic experience for all students and enable a student’s achievement to be reliably assessed. If HE providers are unable to facilitate good online or in-person tuition, they should seek to avoid charging students for any additional terms they may need to undergo as a consequence, avoiding effectively charging them twice. Whether or not an individual student is entitled to a refund of fees will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between the HE provider and student.
The government has been clear that universities are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop. Universities should seek to ensure all students, regardless of their background, can access their studies remotely. The OfS monitors online teaching to ensure standards are met, and there is an established process in place for students with concerns about their education.