Students: Fees and Charges

Department for Education written question – answered on 30th March 2021.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Independent, Leicester East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many complaints his Deaprtment has received on the cancellation of tuition fees (a) during the covid-19 outbreak and (b) over the last 10 years.

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

This is a difficult and uncertain time for students, but we are working with the sector to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies.

The government’s expectation is that quality and academic standards must be maintained, and the Office for Students (OfS) has made it clear that all higher education (HE) providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards.

If students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their higher education provider. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to consider their complaint. The OIA is independent of government, and because of this and the autonomy and independence of HE providers, the government does not become involved in individual student complaints.

The OIA was established in 2005 as an alternative to the courts to consider unresolved student complaints. It is independent of government, providers and students and it is free of charge to students.

The OIA reports the numbers of complaints it has handled during the previous calendar year in its Operating Report and in its Annual Report which is published in the spring each year. The OIA received 2,604 complaints in 2020, which represents a 10% increase on 2019. The OIA has reported that complaints have continued to rise this year, with more than half of them relating to disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many of the complaints the OIA receives are not related to tuition fee refunds although that may be a remedy which the OIA recommends. The OIA publishes, in its Annual Report, the total compensation for students it has recommended. The OIA has also published a number of COVID-19 related case summaries and their outcomes which can be found here: https://www.oiahe.org.uk/resources-and-publications/case-summaries/?keyword=coronavirus&type=&sort=desc.

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