University students are appealing to the competition watchdog to get compensation for the teaching, campus facilities, and accommodation that they say they were denied during the pandemic.
A group of 20 student unions, including the National Union of Students as well as those representing some of the country’s largest universities, have written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). They are calling on the CMA to streamline the appeals process that students need to use to claim refunds. They are also asking for clear guidelines on the grounds for appeal.
The student unions say that their members have been ignored. They felt that spending most of the academic year online does not justify the £9,250 fees, according to the joint letter to the CMA.
“The pandemic has exposed contradictions of the higher education fee system for funding higher education in the UK,” the student leaders wrote, “with students being forced to pay astronomically high fees while having no power to ask for refunds when they lose out.”
“We are not dealing with isolated cases of low-quality teaching in some courses; all students’ educational experiences have been massively impacted by the pandemic, a fact which universities refuse to admit.”
A CMA spokesperson said: “This letter raises some important issues and we are considering the points made by the unions carefully. We are sympathetic to the situation many students find themselves in but this is a complex area legally, and consumer enforcement action may not be the best or quickest solution for students’ problems. The issues caused by lockdown can vary a lot between different cases.”
University campuses have been closed since the start of the year and in-person lessons have been cancelled. Only practical and lab-based courses are back while the rest have been working remotely until the 17th of May.