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Industrial action - CS051909

The student was on a one-year master’s programme at the time of the industrial action. They complained to the University about the impact of the industrial action on their studies and about the University’s handling of their complaint.

The University said that to minimise the effects of the industrial action on the students it had put in place extensions to coursework deadlines, and that it had used academic judgment to ensure that the learning outcomes of the programme were delivered.

After the student complained to us, the University tried to settle the complaint by offering the student the opportunity to attend some of the missed seminars during the following academic year. The student rejected the settlement offer on the basis that it was no longer practical to attend seminars because they were now in full-time work.

We decided the complaint was Partly Justified.

We decided the University had taken appropriate steps to minimise the academic impact of the industrial action. However, it had not taken any steps to make up for the lost teaching hours and the learning opportunities they represented. We explained that, in our experience, most students don’t study at higher education providers purely to gain a qualification. Students who expect to learn about a particular subject but who don’t receive the teaching they are supposed to get are not adequately compensated by the provider undertaking not to test them on it. It is reasonable to expect providers to make some attempt to make up for what has been missed, but this does not have to be like-for-like replacement teaching hours. Until the settlement offer was made, the University had not considered how to make up for the missed learning opportunities. The settlement offer came too late for this student.

We concluded that the University’s apology for the delays and poor communication that occurred during the complaints process were reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

We recommended that the University offered to refund £630 of the student’s tuition fees. 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.