At our recent Student Summit, we brought over 150 students together to discuss and debate the refund of tuition fees for students affected by COVID-19. This discussion was prompted by an idea placed on our online Ideas Forum which suggested that all students receive financial compensation and a refund of tuition fees due to the change in the way their programme has been delivered. The debate identified the complexity of how such refunds could work, with ideas to join the national student movement to lobby the national government for fee relief, in addition to suggestions to seek this back directly from the University.
The discussion also revealed the extent to which students have been impacted by the changes to their course and experience, with powerful speeches that detailed the disruption caused by the pandemic. As a Union we have been actively listening and collecting this feedback in order to share these examples with the University through the relevant committee and forum on your behalf. We’d like to thank everyone who shared their honest views and opinions about their experience by attending and participating in the Summit.
The proposal was overwhelming approved by a clear and large majority and according to our Standing Orders, this will now become a Union policy that we will actively campaign for over the next three years. What does this mean for our next steps? Here is an overview of the actions we will take immediately:
- We will join up with the NUS Students Deserve Better campaign and add the Derby voice and feedback to their lobbying of central government. We will be promoting their petition to provide immediate relief to students by reintroducing maintenance grants and share their toolkit which encourages individual students to write and lobby their local MP.
- We will follow up on our letter to local Derby MPs and request a meeting to discuss student concerns directly. Whilst we acknowledge that the Derbyshire North MP has forwarded our letter to the Universities Minister, we will seek further action from local representatives to respond to student feedback.
- We will continue to lobby the Competition and Markets Authority to provide clarity and guidance to students wishing to seek compensation for the disruption to their studies. We note the recent case summaries published by the OIA on student refunds and our advice team remain available to provide support for any student going through the University complaints process and OIA procedures.
- We will be speaking with the Vice Chancellor of the University to request a joint statement to the Universities Minister which seeks financial relief for students.
- We will work with the University to publish details of how tuition fees have been used to fund the Blended Learning model this year, in an update to the fees breakdown shown on the University website. We understand that this transparency is important and will campaign to see an updated explanation of costs and the financial impact of COVID-19 on the University.
- We will share the feedback collected through Summit in University meetings and use this information to campaign for financial compensation for students.
Finally, we would encourage any student who wishes to share more feedback on their student experience this year to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or passing back information to your programme representative. Through our rep structure we are able to raise this feedback through the right channels and seek solutions to particular issues you are facing on your course. Only by knowing this information can we take action on your behalf and work towards better outcomes for all.
Your Officer Trustees