The University claim that lost teaching has been for reasons beyond it's controlLouis Ashworth

The University has today confirmed that it will not issue “financial reimbursement generally to students” in response to disruption caused by industrial action between November 2019-March 2020 and the impact of Covid-19 during Easter Term.

In an email sent to all students, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Graham Virgo, explained: “having reviewed matters carefully, the University is not planning to provide a fee refund or financial reimbursement generally to students for any specific missed teaching sessions.”

Today’s announcement follows a national petition in which students called for tuition fee refunds due to cancelled teaching hours during strikes by academic staff and teaching lost due to the pandemic. The petition, which was discussed by the petitions committee on 7th May, has over 340,000 signatures.

Students at several universities, including Bristol, Durham and Oxford, have called for refunds in relation to disruption since March.

The University outline three reasons which underpin their decision. Primarily, the University proposes that it has adopted measures “to avoid substantial detriment to students” so “anticipates that few (if any) students will in fact have been materially disadvantaged as a result of the industrial action or COVID-19.”

These measures include the rapid introduction of online teaching during Easter term, which have varied in quality for different subjects and some students claim are accompanied by technical difficulties.

This first justification is similar to that given by the University following previous strikes. After industrial action in 2018, the University announced that “few (if any) students will in fact have been materially disadvantaged as a result of the industrial action”.

The second justification which the University has used to accompany today’s announcement is that “tuition fees [...] do not directly correlate to individual teaching sessions, including specific contact hours that may have been missed” as a result of this year’s disruption. The University suggests that in-person facilities have been moved online where possible.

Finally, the University points to a clause in its terms of admission. The University argues that students, on joining Cambridge, agree “that the University will not be liable for matters outside the University’s control, which explicitly includes strike action, pandemics and restrictions imposed by government or public authorities”.


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The University recognises “that there may be some students who consider that they have incurred significant financial loss or damage as a consequence of the industrial action or the impact of the pandemic and who believe that they have valid ground(s) for complaint against the University.”

The normal 28-day deadline for submitting complaints under the Student Complaints Procedure has been extended under these circumstances, “in order to ensure clarity and fairness in relation to any complaints brought in respect of the industrial action and/or COVID-19”.

Students wishing to complain for these reasons must submit a complaint form and evidence by 27 July.

Last month, Professor Virgo told Varsity that the University will continue to charge normal rate tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year, arguing that an undergraduate education costs far more than students pay.