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On 1 to 3 December 2021, the University and College Union (UCU) initiated industrial action. This affected my daughter because her tutorial instructors went on strike. Her Department confirmed the 3 tutorials she missed will not be made up or restituted.

My daughter pays the pricier Overseas fee around £30,000. Is she entitled to a pro rata refund of her International fee? E.g. the cost of these three tutorials?

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UK Universities are regulated by the Office for Students (Ofs). The OfS have released a statement (briefing note) regarding the industrial action and what Universities must do to minimise any negative impact on students. Quoting from this document:

We expect providers to take all reasonable steps to avoid or limit disruption to students. We also expect providers to make up for any teaching time or learning that students lose. For example, providers might make up for lost teaching time later in the academic year or offer full or partial fee refunds. Any changes made to examinations or other assessments should not disadvantage students, while also maintaining standards. Providers should communicate regularly and clearly with students to ensure they understand the impact that disruption will have on their studies and the steps being taken to mitigate the impact of any disruption.

So fee refunds are an option for universities, but probably very unlikely since the strike is 3 days and relatively little teaching has been lost which can be made up for in other ways. There have been regular strikes like this over the last 5 years or so and I don't recall any tuition refunds being made in the past.

If the University's response is not acceptable to a student they must first raise this with the appropriate body at the University. If a satisfactory response is not received the student may make a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HE.

Realistically it is better to work with the Student Union at the university in question who exist to represent students both at the University and national level. Interestingly, according to the National Union of Students, students are generally supportive of the UCU strike. At present there doesn't appear to be any action planned by student unions in response to the strike.

Note: the topic of fee refunds has also come up with regards to Covid interruption and as far as I'm aware no refunds have been made.

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    I disagree that the students union being supportive if the strikes means they won't be interested in pursuing compensation for students. On the contrary, pursuing compensation increases the effectiveness of the strikes because it increases the financial consequences for the university, and increasing the costs increases the motivation to avoid future strikes. Dec 5, 2021 at 23:17
  • @IanSudbery "it increases the financial consequences for the university" aren't people on strike considered as non-paid leave, i.e. the days on strike are not paid out?
    – user149718
    Dec 6, 2021 at 8:53
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    @tensors_are_4_engineers Paying wages doesn't cost businesses money. Paying wages makes money for businesses, because the wages are always less than the revenue the employee produces in the same time. They don't "save" the cost of the wages, they lose the opportunity for profit from products not sold to customers (except, in this case, they seem to be getting away with just giving the customer less for the same price).
    – iono
    Dec 6, 2021 at 12:14
  • I'm a now former member of UCU, and we were pretty split on the last strike on the idea of suggesting that students attempt this. On one hand, a lot of the strike action revolves around the commodification of education, but on the other, even requests for refunds add up pressure on the university, and expose them to increased liability for us striking (i.e, a lot of requests for refunds might lead to a class action suit from the students)
    – lupe
    Dec 6, 2021 at 12:40
  • @IanSudbery, agreed - I actually didn't intend to imply this, only to point out that students have been supportive of the lecturers striking. I have revised the way I phrased this part.
    – atom44
    Dec 6, 2021 at 12:43
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I seriously doubt that any refunds will be given and also doubt whether they are warranted. You attend university for an education and learning isn't measured in "seat time".

It would be proper for the instructors to compensate somehow so that learning isn't impaired, but that doesn't necessarily mean holding lecture/tutorial sessions. There are a lot of ways to assure that students learn when there is some disruption. I suspect that the overall effect or intent isn't to just chop off the learning after a certain point.

It would be too easy to argue the above in any legal proceeding and, I think most people could be convinced, even if they haven't thought of it before.

And three days is a very short period of time in any case. I suspect that the three missed tutorials weren't all in the same class/subject.

It also seems to be the case that some of the things that the strike was seeking would actually benefit students; workload, for example.


Note also that higher education is heavily subsidized by government (tax funds) in most places, so what you might be "due" in any case is likely a lot less than you'd think. It isn't like buying Cadbury Chocolate.

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    It costs us about £18k per student per year to deliver our degree programme in my department. Tuition from home students is £9250. We get nothing from the government. The shortfall is made up from two places - the fact humanities students pay the same, but cost about £5k to teach, and from overseas fees. We charge overseas students £25k a year. Dec 5, 2021 at 23:11

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