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Student fee status - PI071905
Public interest case July 2019 | Justified
A student was a refugee who had been given permission to appeal a Home Office decision about their status under “Human Rights” grounds. The student applied to the provider to join a healthcare course.
They had selected “Humanitarian protection” from the drop-down options on the UCAS form for their residential category. This was the first option. In fact, the student should have selected the general drop-down code: “Other”. UCAS tells applicants and providers that applicants should make their own assessment of their residential category, but that this is provisional and that the provider will later check it.
The residential category “Humanitarian protection” entitled the student to pay home fees, and to an NHS bursary, and the student enrolled on the course on that basis. The provider checked the student’s immigration history and the student was assessed as being an international student for fee purposes. The student was also told that they did not meet the grounds for an NHS bursary. By this time the student had completed their first term. The provider withdrew the student due to non-payment of international level fees.
The student complained to us that the provider would not allow them to complete the year and had withdrawn them for not paying the international fees. The student said the provider should have checked the fee status and given the correct information before allowing them to enrol and incur a debt.
We decided the complaint was Justified. We concluded that the provider had not shown that it was reasonable to rely principally on the student’s response to the residential code question. Humanitarian protection is a complex area of immigration law. The student had identified themselves as a refugee/asylum seeker in the application and the fee status of students from such a background is not clear cut. The provider should have realised that it needed to assess the student’s fee status before allowing the student to start the course.
Also, the provider could not show that it had followed its own procedures at enrolment, which should have included a mandatory check on the student’s passport as a non-EU student.
We recommended that the provider write off the tuition fee debt and offer the student an additional sum in compensation for the distress and inconvenience as well as a loss of earnings. We also recommended that the provider should review its fee assessment procedures.