Tuition, assessments and fees

Answers to common questions about tuition, assessments and grading during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

Universities recognise that it is a challenging time for students and are doing everything they can to make sure that all students are supported through the Covid-19 pandemic. Students with questions should go their university's dedicated webpages about coronavirus. These pages will include the most up to date information and advice, as well as what students should do and who they should contact if they need any additional support.


Can students request a refund on their tuition fees? 

How are students without internet access, or those who have disabilities or care responsibilities being helped to access learning and continue studying?

How will students be assessed this year? 

Are exams going to be fair if they are delivered online? 

What happens to assessments for professional qualifications?

When will students be able to return to campus?

Resources

 

Q: Can students request a refund on their tuition fees?

A: Universities are determined to provide a positive experience for all students and are working extremely hard to deliver high-quality online teaching and learning in accordance with latest government guidelines. Since the start of the pandemic, the sector has proved to be extremely agile in reacting to the latest government and public health advice, offering a mix of online and in-person teaching where circumstances allow, with the important thing being that all students are supported to achieve the required learning outcomes for their course of study. The level of fee is not just based on teaching hours, but also takes into account things like the ratios of staff to students, the physical and virtual resources (including libraries) which are available, and a wide range of student support services.

The UK Government has made clear that there should not be blanket tuition fee refunds, but individual students should seek redress where they have particular concerns about their experience of their course.

Students who have difficulty continuing with their learning, perhaps because of illness, caring responsibilities or lack of access to IT, or who are not satisfied with the alternative provision and support they are getting, should make this known to their university in the first instance. Every university will have their own established process for managing complaints, and will be mindful of the extenuating circumstances.

Universities will do what they can to address any complaints. If the student is not happy with the result, they can take their complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in England and Wales, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman or to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.


Q: How are students without internet access, or those who have disabilities or care responsibilities being helped to access learning and continue studying? 

A: Universities are determined to provide a positive experience for all students and are working extremely hard to deliver high-quality online teaching and learning in accordance with latest government guidelines.

We recognise the financial pressures the pandemic has placed on many students and universities are providing increased financial and other support as a result. Universities have spent significant amounts on hardship funds, supporting students to have the right equipment and resources to study, and online services from careers advice to support for mental health and wellbeing. UUK has joined with Jisc, GuildHE and UCISA to write to ministers to ask for action to help lift HE students out of digital poverty.

Students who are not able to use or access alternative course materials and teaching should discuss arrangements with their university. Students who are unable to access online learning due to a lack of internet access, or a disability or a caring responsibility, should contact their university over the phone for advice. 


Q: How will students be assessed this year?

A: Teaching and assessment for the 2020-21 academic year was designed in the knowledge that local or national lockdowns were a possibility, so adjustments to assessments and mitigating circumstances policies will have been made to ensure they remain fair and reliable. Appropriate adjustments may also have been made to how students will receive their final grades and/or progress to the next stage of their course. Universities are doing this in different ways: what is most appropriate will differ across the range of courses institutions offer, and will be influenced by other considerations, including whether courses have professional, statutory or regulatory requirements (such as medicine or law).

Universities recognise the exceptional circumstances in which students are being taught and assessed but they need to ensure that for those individuals graduating or progressing with their studies this year, the qualifications they are awarded hold their value and meet the requirements of accrediting bodies. This is in students' interests.

Universities will follow the guidance of established bodies, such as the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).


Q: Are exams going to be fair if they are delivered online?

A: Universities are doing all they can to ensure that all assessments are fair and follow official guidelines. They are working with agencies that regulate exams and assessments, and are thinking about the different types of courses to make sure that assessments are appropriate. Find out more on the Quality Assurance Agency website.

 

Q: What happens to assessments for professional qualifications?

A: For degrees accredited and regulated by professional, statutory and regulatory bodies (PSRBs) there may be separate requirements that students must usually meet, and it is not always within the power of individual universities to alter these.

Universities are working closely with PSRBs, QAA and the UK government to make sure that the qualifications students are awarded hold their value and meet the requirements of accrediting bodies so as to enable students to progress smoothly into their chosen profession.

 

Q: When will students be able to return to campus?

A: Due to ongoing national lockdown restrictions across the UK, the majority of students are not currently able to return to university campus or accommodation. However, there are different approaches in the different devolved administrations of the UK and there are several exemptions for cohorts studying certain courses. You can find details of which courses are able to return and details of planned return dates in each country below:  

 

 

Please note that plans will depend on future restrictions and are therefore under constant review. Universities will also be communicating directly with students on specific plans for return to campus.

 

Resources:

Higher education regulation in the devolved nations

England: Office for Students 

Scotland: Scottish Funding Council 

Wales: Higher Education Funding Council for Wales 

Northern Ireland: Higher Education Quality Assurance

Ombudsmen in the devolved nations: 

England and Wales: Office of the Independent Adjudicator 
Scotland: Scottish Public Services Ombudsman 
Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman

Assessment quality: 

Office for Students

Quality Assurance Agency

Funding:

Student Loans Company



News

Joint letter from UUK, Student Minds and NUS on student returns

11 April 2021
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Universities demand answers from government on student returns

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