Will the University refund tuition fees?
At the moment there is no overarching refund offer and the Department for Education have stated that refunds are a matter for universities to deal with.
What can I do?
On Monday 15 February, Guild Council, the representative body within your Students’ Guild, voted in favour of campaigning for tuition fee compensation. Penny Dinh, your VP for Education, is leading on this and you can find out more here. We will continue to update you on this campaign.
While we hope that this will help students, we cannot guarantee anything at the moment, so your first step if you are unhappy with the delivery of your course is to raise this up following the University Complaints Procedure.
As you can see from the procedure, complaints should first try to be resolved informally unless there is a specific reason why this is not possible. In the first instance this could be an email or meeting with someone to put forward your situation and how you have been impacted and why you are not feeling like you are getting what you paid for.
At this stage you need to raise the issues with your department and give them opportunity to address and resolve the problem. Hopefully, as a result of the informal stage, you’ll be happy with how the complaint has been handled and the outcome.
We strongly encourage that you raise this up via your Guild student representation. If this was a specific course issue you may wish to raise up your experience through to your Subject Rep who can speak to the department about this on your behalf. You can view your Reps here.
Who should I talk to first?
If you have an issue with your course or your academic experience, you can take this feedback to your Subject Rep. You can find out who your Reps are here: find your Reps.
Your Reps will take this feedback to your department, liaise with the relevant staff members and try to find a solution. The Reps will then feedback to you and the student body the result of this discussion.
If you are still not satisfied with the outcome of this process, you can discuss with your Reps about escalating your feedback further. You should escalate any non-subject feedback through your Subject Chair to your College Officer for their involvement in taking it to higher-level meetings.
You should be able to evidence that you have followed these procedures before making a formal complaint to the University.
I’ve tried the informal resolution, but I am not happy. How do I make a formal complaint?
Not all complaints can be resolved informally, especially if you are looking for a refund or compensation, so then you will need to complain formally using the complaint form (found in section 7.2.1 of the Complaints Procedure).
Read through the procedure first to make sure that you understand the process and if you have grounds to raise a complaint.
When writing a complaint, it is useful to clearly state what the nature of the complaint is, a timeline of events relating to the complaint, action already taken to try and resolve the matter, and finally your desired outcome.
You will need to look at whether the delivery of the course met the learning objectives and if you can show if these were not met.
If you are doing a practical course where you need access to labs, for example, this would be clearer to show that you had not had what you paid for, however if all your teaching has been able to be done on-line this could be more difficult.
We can absolutely see how students have not had the student experience that they were expecting, but this will be more difficult to prove a need for tuition refund. What the University have to provide is appropriate teaching and support.
Please remember that any complaint needs to be submitted as soon as possible in relation to the issue with which you are dissatisfied.
Can I get help with my complaint?
Your Students’ Guild Advice Service can support students who would like help with writing complaints or would just like more information. You can get in touch with the Advice Service, including booking a virtual drop-in slot, here.
Depending on the processing of your complaint, a meeting may be scheduled to discuss the matter with the relevant University staff members. If you would like support at the meeting we may be able to attend with you. Please note that we cannot represent you, and have no automatic rights to speak, but can be there to help you ensure you are treated fairly and are given the opportunity to make your case and explain your desired outcomes.
What are the chances of being successful?
This is difficult to say as each course will have been impacted differently; we are watching what is happening with complaints that have gone through to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). The OIA is ombudsman who oversees higher education, and if you were unhappy with the outcome of your complaint you could go to them after completion of University procedures.
The OIA have published a number of cases regarding complaints about the impact of Covid and we would recommend that you read these to get an idea about what they are considering.
Where students have practical elements to their course that alternatives offered by the University where not adequate to show that learning outcomes have been met, we can see that some cases have been successful.
Where students are unhappy with the University experience and teaching being online, if their learning objectives have been met, they have not had their complaint upheld. The OIA are looking at reasonable measures that have been taken to provide learning the was broadly equivalent to the norm – this means you’ll need to have clear proof this has not been the case.
Can I do anything else?
It’s absolutely essential you continue talking to your Students’ Guild about issues you’re facing. You can do this through your Reps, your VP Education or by completing the coronavirus feedback form. Throughout the pandemic your Students’ Guild has represented students based on feedback, so it’s critical you talk to us as much as possible so we can help.
If you would like to support the tuition fee compensation campaign, then head over to the Campaign for tuition fee compensation update for more details.
Some of my fees go towards student facilities and services which I have not been able to access, why will this not be refunded?
If you were able to get Student Finance but had previously chosen not to, the first actions would be to apply. Applications are still open for this year.
If you are not eligible then you could apply for the Success for all Fund, which could help you with day-to-day costs.
If you need further advice or support, then please don’t hesitate in contacting the Advice Service.
Why won’t the Government reimburse or partially refund tuition fees for students?
Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities, explained that the government only set the maximum level of tuition fees and universities can charge lower than this. They have been clear throughout that if universities want to continue to charge the maximum level they must ensure that teaching is accessible and of a good quality. The Minister encouraged them to talk to their university and submit a complaint to the Office for the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) if they are not satisfied with the response or have concerns. The Minister stated that she had seen some amazing examples of innovate online provision but accepts that not all students will have been getting a good deal.
The Office for Students (OfS) are actively monitoring the quality of online learning and are asking for evidence where students do not believe this is up to acceptable standards.
We are not receiving the service we signed a contract for, does the Consumer Rights Act (2015) apply?
Yes, consumer rights do apply to students and this could be relevant. Have a look at the Government’s Guide to consumer rights for students for more information.
You would need to consider if the ‘service’ the University has provided is what you were expecting to receive, as this is more specifically concerned with the learning provided and the outcomes, rather than the specifics of how the ‘service’ is delivered.
A full-time course at the Open University, which is comparable to the service we are receiving now, costs £6000 a year, why are we paying more for the same service?
We understand that it can feel really disappointing that there has been less in-person teaching this year than many of us had hoped there would be.
Despite it being predominantly online learning this year, it’s is quite difficult to compare Exeter to the Open University.