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Industrial action - CS051902

A student was in the final year of an undergraduate degree course at the time of the industrial action. They complained to the provider that they had paid for lectures and seminars which were not provided, that their performance in one module had been affected, and that the industrial action had a detrimental impact on their mental health. They requested a partial refund of tuition fees.

The provider said that to minimise the effects of the industrial action on the student it had:

  • adjusted the weighting of assessments, submission dates and content
  • ensured assessments did not include any material that had not been taught
  • used academic judgment to determine that all core learning for the modules was delivered
  • provided some material online before, during and after the industrial action.

The provider showed that the student’s results in the modules affected by the industrial action were not markedly different to their other module results. It also noted that, if the student thought their academic performance had been affected, they should have made an academic appeal. Students had been signposted to the appropriate process for this.

The provider accepted that the industrial action may have caused distress and inconvenience to students. It had therefore set up a goodwill fund. The provider considered the student’s complaint and offered a goodwill payment of £130.

The student did not accept the offer and complained to us.

We decided the complaint was Partly Justified. We thought that the provider had taken appropriate steps to minimise the academic impact of the industrial action and that the goodwill payment for distress and inconvenience was reasonable. We also noted that the provider’s mental health and counselling services remained open and available to students throughout the period of industrial action, and that these services were clearly signposted to students online and on campus.

But the University hadn’t taken enough steps to make up for the student’s missed learning opportunities. In our experience most students do not study at higher education providers purely to gain a qualification. Other things are important to them too, such as attending lectures and seminars led by academics. We decided that a considerable amount of teaching time was cancelled for some of the student’s modules, and that the learning outcomes for the modules couldn’t have been delivered in full and to the expected standards simply by putting material online.

We recommended that the provider should offer to refund tuition fees of £630.72. This was based on the notional cost of the teaching hours missed, reduced by 50%, taking into account that higher education providers have to provide and maintain buildings, IT and library facilities, wellbeing and other student support and administration.