Education Secretary Damien Hinds has announced that students can demand compensation from their university if their lectures are affected by the strikes scheduled to commence this week.
The argument for compensation for the strikes is based on the notion that students possess “rights as consumers”, and thus are entitled to compensation for a university’s failure to comply with contracted terms of service.
Hinds also suggested that ultimately students’ entitlement to a tuition fee rebate would be the decision of each individual university. This notion was also reiterated by a spokesperson for Universities UK (UUK).
The education secretary told the Andrew Marr Show: “Nobody wants to see the kind of disruption we’re talking about and ideally we hope this dispute will be resolved”.
General secretary of the striking union, the UCU, Sally Hunt, has suggested that it is “unsurprising” that students are seeking reimbursement for “a service they feel they are paying for”.
Hunt has also suggested that students are “understandably worried about the strike, and angry that their universities are doing absolutely nothing to avert the most disruptive strike action ever seen on UK campuses”.
Students possess “rights as consumers”, and thus are entitled to compensation for a university’s failure to comply with contracted terms of service
The general secretary has encouraged students to contact their vice-chancellor to urge them to put pressure on UUK to return to negotiations.
However, UUK have defended the fact that no resolution has been reached by highlighting that UUK and the UCU have met “over 35 times during the last year”.
They have said that they cannot accept the UCU’s demands as this would lead to “unaffordable contributions from employees and employers”.
The strikes are set to begin this Thursday if no settlement has been reached between UUK and the UCU, and continue for a total of 14 days over four weeks. The scheduled days, as well as further information about the strikes, are published here.
The Boar recently calculated that each student will be losing an average of £864 in tuition fees if said student is affected by all of the 14 proposed strike days; however, students at London’s City University have suggested a compensation figure of almost £1,300 would be more appropriate.
There are currently petitions at several universities including Warwick to put pressure on universities to grant affected students compensation.
The petition at the University of Warwick is online with the accompanying explanation: “It is wholly unacceptable that universities may not provide the teaching resources and contact hours they are contractually obliged to, while still taking our tuition fees in full.”
I support the lecturers’ argument but I paid £27,000 for this degree and given that my final year is worth 60% of it I think removing four weeks of teaching could be detrimental to my degree classification and potentially my career
– Anonymous student
From the student perspective here at Warwick, The Boar’s recent survey on student opinion on the strikes revealed torn responses, with students both wanting to support their lecturers but also feeling a sense of injustice over the loss of teaching time and thus money.
One response read: “I support the lecturers’ argument but I paid £27,000 for this degree and given that my final year is worth 60% of it I think removing four weeks of teaching could be detrimental to my degree classification and potentially my career.”
This was supported by another response who commented: “I understand lecturers’ reasons for striking but they haven’t considered their students’ academic needs at a crucial time in the academic year, or the fact that we pay ludicrous sums of money to be educated fully by them.”
Jonathan Dunn, first year Modern Foreign Languages and Economics student, told The Boar: “I don’t understand why, if the university already supports the strikes, it is necessary to put pressure on the university by disrupting it. Can universities not just take advantage of their own bargaining power?”
Other issues raised by student responses included the fact that “academics will still receive far better pensions than most other public sector workers” and “I’m losing a sixth of my teaching time for a module which is 12.5% of my degree”.
However, some students showed great favour for the strikes irrespective of concerns over their own tuition fees: “It’s time for us to look at the bigger picture and return the support that they [the lecturers] have given to us.”
Tell us your thoughts on the upcoming strikes by filling in our quick survey below: