Tuition Fees & COVID-19

Across the SU we've been hearing from many students to raise concerns about the cost of tuition fees following the disruption caused by the strikes and the impact the covid-19 outbreak has had on students. We understand that the last academic year was very difficult for some of our students and we are already seeing further challenges this year.

We appreciate that the impact of the pandemic and associated changes at university will often be frustrating and worrying, and therefore feel it is important to keep you updated on the action the Students' Union has been taking, including work that was carried out by our previous Student Officer team. Your new Student Officer Team are currently planning the direction they will lead the Students’ Union in over this issue and will be consulting with students along the way to hear your feedback and concerns.

Our officers sit on a number of top level University Committees with the aim of representing the view of our students and obtaining the best outcomes possible when it comes to University Policies and Procedures. During the pandemic our officers have been meeting with Senior University staff on a daily basis to advocate for students. So far, officers have achieved a lot of positive results such as the implementation of the no disadvantage policy and widening student access to the University's financial support fund.

Tuition fees and potential refunds is an area that students have asked us about but it is a complex situation that we can’t currently offer you a clear answer on due to a number of factors outlined below.  The administration of tuition fees is often not a direct financial relationship between the student and University as it often includes Student Finance and loans, which adds to the complexity of the situation and differs for home and international students. 

The University Perspective

The University maintains that they expect students to continue paying their fees and there aren’t any current plans we are aware of to offer wide scale refunds or discounts. One argument that the University has continued to make is that tuition fees aren’t paid purely for teaching or contact time but they encompass all University facilities, many of which remain open during the pandemic.  The University argues that it is still providing teaching, learning and its wider services remotely and that the overall priority is learning outcomes, which it feels can still be achieved using blended and online methods.

We recently raised questions about this on your behalf at a question and answer session with the President and Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell and her colleagues, which was livestreamed on our Facebook page and is now available to view here.  The University’s official statement on Tuition Fees is also available here.

Our Advice Service can provide individual support and guidance to students who are struggling with any aspects of the University’s new blended and online approach. We can support students to resolve issues through both informal and formal routes.

The Wider HE Perspective

Across the Higher Education sector we’ve seen a wide range of opinion on whether students are entitled to a refund under consumer rights laws. Unfortunately, this issue remains untested in the courts.

The government has taken the position that students are still required to pay their tuition fees in full and has set out an expectation that individuals can use their institution’s complaints procedure if they believe there are grounds for refund. There could be grounds for a complaint where these factors apply:

  • the service provided by the University is different from what was agreed in the contract
  • the student hasn’t given clear agreement for the changes to the service
  • the changes to the service are unreasonable i.e. the University hasn’t done all it can to provide an equivalent experience
  • the different service is inaccessible

It is very difficult to predict whether individual complaints would be successful as this is such a new area. The University may try to defend against a complaint by arguing it has taken all reasonable steps to make alternative arrangements to deliver the services agreed.

In some specific cases, there may be a better chance of some form of financial compensation. This could include cases where it isn't possible to achieve the intended learning outcomes through alternative teaching and learning provision or where a student has suffered a significant detrimental impact relating to ill health or disability. There may also be cases where it is reasonable for the University to offer the option of interrupting for the year and returning to study when the disruption caused by the pandemic is reduced.

Support with a complaint

If you would like more information on using the University’s Complaints Procedure to raise your individual concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Advice Service who can offer further guidance and support.

The University’s Complaints Procedure is available to current students and recent graduates as a way to raise concerns, give feedback and request solutions to problems that have occurred during your time at University. The complaints procedure can be used to request compensation from the University or any other resolutions considered appropriate.

We understand that going through the complaints process may not be easy and it can be stressful if it feels like the University isn’t listening to your concerns. Our Advice Service is here to support you through this challenging time and can help you to access a wider network of support services.

Our Next Steps

In terms of wider ongoing action by the Students’ Union, your new Officer team are continuing to meet most days with the University’s senior leaders to represent and advocate for students. Here is the latest update on the work of our officers. Any further updates will be published on our website and social media channels.

We launched our Learning, Research and Support survey on Monday 12th October and so far over 2000 students have taken part. We want to understand your experience as a Manchester student so far this academic year.  Our survey will be open until Monday 19th October at 12pm. We’re hoping to hear from as many students as possible. Your Officer Team will be using the results of this survey to plan their ongoing support for students.

Use your voice and complete the survey here.

Keep in Touch with Your Students’ Union

If you would like to provide any feedback to your Officers, you can find their contact details on our website at  

Our Advice Service offers confidential, independent advice and guidance to our students on a range of issues including your studies, finances, housing and welfare.  You can visit the Advice Service section of our website, email us on [email protected] or drop-in to our Advice Gateway in the Students’ Union building from 10-4pm Monday to Friday to get basic advice or make an appointment with an Advisor on more complex issues.  

You can also find out about our Student Rep system and how your course rep can represent your views to the University. If there is an issue affecting more than one student on your course, your course rep can advocate for you. Our Education Team are there to provide support for the course rep system and you can find out more about this here.

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