Should UK Students Get a Refund this Academic Year? | Top Universities

Should UK Students Get a Refund this Academic Year?

By Chloe Lane

Updated April 9, 2021 Updated April 9, 2021

A petition has been signed by over 132,000 students demanding that UK universities reimburse students’ tuition fees during strike action that took place this academic year.

With the strikes, and now the coronavirus, preventing students from attending lectures and seminars, we ask three students whether they believe they should be entitled to a refund for this academic year. 

Several universities, including the University of Nottingham, Newcastle University and the University of Reading are saying that they won’t be charging students for their third term of accommodation if they will no longer be staying in university halls, due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

We spoke to Joe Ward, a third-year history and international relations student; Joseph Forrest, a third-year psychology student and Ben Thornbury, to find out their thoughts on a potential tuition fee refund…

Should students be refunded? 

“I don’t think that we should have a refund for the whole year as we have already had the vast majority of teaching,” said Joseph, adding “I do think that we should get some reimbursement however – if we ever get to attend graduation, getting that for free would be nice.”

Joe, on the other hand, was unsure; “I don’t know personally about being entitled to a refund, although I appreciate that I am in a stronger financial situation than others, so I believe this influences my decision.”

“I don’t think we should be entitled to a refund, as Covid-19 is not the fault of the university,” said Ben. “As long as they are providing work and tutorials in an online system, I don’t see what the problem is – this is a tricky time!”

 A smooth transition to online learning?

A student learning online

As the Coronavirus situation worsened, and higher education facilities closed down at the request of the Government, universities only had a maximum of a few weeks to transition to online learning.

We asked students if they believe that universities did enough to ensure that this transition was a smooth one…

“I don’t think they could’ve done much more,” said Joe, “but I do think that the online services on offer are not worth £9,250 a year.” He said, “there is not clear criteria for what lecturers offer, and lectures and seminars vary in their quality.”

“I think UK universities have done enough to transition to online learning,” said Ben, “by using online programs like Blackboard and Microsoft Teams, the work is easily set, and you can easily ask questions if you want to.”

How the switch is affecting students’ work quality and grades 

With universities around the world trialing online exams, lectures and seminars, we ask the students whether they think implementing these measures will affect their ability to perform well in academic assignments and exams, and if so, whether this will be enough to impact their overall grades.

Joseph thinks that online exams will impact students’ grades, but not necessarily in a negative way; “online exams are obviously novel, so people may be more anxious about them, however, people can generally type faster than they write, meaning that they will be able to write more.”

Contrastingly, Joe believes that the switch to online learning is already negatively affecting his assignments “classes are now less engaging, and some lecturers don’t know how to use their [online] tools properly”. He adds, “some [lecturers] can’t even be reached.”

Ben thinks the overall impact will be a positive one. He said: “Universities are definitely setting enough [work] to accelerate your learning and have a positive impact.” Ben does acknowledge one difficulty he has encountered with online learning: “Trying to meet deadlines is hard because it’s difficult to stick to your normal timetable when you’re at home.”

Have universities done enough?

Young woman studying on her tablet

“I think that universities are trying everything they can at the moment,” said Joseph. “We are getting daily emails while they work out what will happen, so I think this is okay.”

“I personally think universities have done enough,” said Ben. “It’s hard for any education institution out there to switch to online learning so fast without a pre-warning. It’s a learning experience for everyone and online learning will improve drastically while this crisis carries on. Any bugs in the system will be smoothed out.”

“I don’t know if they could offer more, to be honest,” said Joe. “I think the approach varies from school to school and some are a lot more engaged than others.”

What do you miss the most?

We asked the three students if there’s anything they feel they are missing by attending seminars and lectures online rather than in person. 

Joe said, “I am missing content and audience engagement. I can’t clarify anything tricky in the same way I could in seminars.” 

“I don’t have any more lectures or seminars, and the only time I talk to my lecturers is when I Skype with my supervisor, which I could do anyway before the coronavirus hit, so I don’t feel like I’m really missing anything,” said Joseph.

“For me, it’s the feeling of not regularly seeing friends and having to sit on your own by your laptop without anyone to speak to,” said Ben. 


Do you think you should be entitled to a refund this academic year? Have your say in the comments below.

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This article was originally published in April 2020 . It was last updated in April 2021

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