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Industrial action - CS051905

A student was in the first year of a three-year English degree at the time of the industrial action. The student complained to the University that they lost three of 24 weeks teaching in three modules. They also said that the University had not given clear information about the industrial action and the steps it had taken to reduce its impact.

The University recognised that three weeks of teaching had been affected but said staff worked hard to ensure overall learning outcomes were met and that final marks were not negatively impacted. It accepted that its communications were not as clear and timely as it would have liked and apologised for the distress and inconvenience the student had experienced.

The University said that to minimise the impact of the industrial action on academic outcomes:

  • students were not assessed on topics that hadn’t been delivered due to the industrial action
  • student performance in each affected module was analysed to ensure that module mark distributions were similar to previous years.

The student complained to us. We asked the University for more information about what it had done to minimise the impact of the industrial action on the student. It said that for one of the three modules it had:

  • provided lecture materials from cancelled taught sessions online
  • provided a sample of coursework online
  • offered additional coursework tutorials
  • ensured module leaders were available over the Easter vacation and during the following term.

For the other two modules, the University didn’t provide teaching materials online and although the University said it had offered additional tutorials for one of them, the sessions were not well advertised to students.

The student said that the steps taken to minimise the impact on coursework did not ease their concerns about lost teaching, which might affect their studies later on in the course.

We decided the complaint was Partly Justified.

We decided the University had taken appropriate steps to minimise the academic impact of the industrial action. If the student felt that there had been an impact on their assessments, they could have made an academic appeal.

The University had recognised teaching hours had been affected and had taken reasonable steps to minimise the lost learning opportunities for one module. But for the two other modules it had not done enough to make up for the lost teaching hours and the learning opportunities they represented.

This student was a first-year student on a three-year English degree. We think that a student in their position would have a better opportunity than a student on a shorter course or in their third year of a course with more teaching hours, to make up for some of the lost learning opportunities, for example, by sitting in on lectures they had missed.

We recommended that the University offer the student £297.87 in total. £200 was for distress and inconvenience caused by the University not communicating clearly about the steps it was taking when contact time was affected, and not addressing the student’s concerns more promptly when they first raised them in March 2018.

The rest was a partial tuition fee refund 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. We recommended the University refund the student one third of this amount (£97.87) to take account the student’s year of study and the nature of their degree programme.