Save the Student
Students call for refunds on tuition fees amidst the difficulties and financial strain they face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s been nearly one year since the first national lockdown forcing universities to move their lectures and seminars online changing the university life experience for students.
Pre-pandemic they were immersed into a life of social events, living independently and taking part in face to face tuition. But the way we live, work and socialise has changed dramatically as technology develops and comes up with new ways of connecting with people.
University life has fundamentally changed for students however, tuition fees remain high and many students have been questioning whether they should be paying the full rate when they are not getting the full experience coupled with their prospect of diminished work opportunities. In addition, many students have continued paying rent for student accommodation despite not being able to access their accommodation due to lockdown restrictions.
Can students claim a refund on their tuition fees?
Consumer Rights Act 2015
Tuition fees are protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 under their contracts with universities. Under this legislation a reduction in the service or a failure to carry out promises under that contract would constitute a breach of contract.
However, whether or not there is a breach of contract will depend on various factors as each university may have different terms and therefore students should check this carefully when assessing whether they may have a claim for breach of contract and what exactly they have lost or missed out on as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Force Majeure is a term usually contained within contracts that excludes liability if either of the parties are unable to perform their obligations due to events that are outside their control. Whether or not the Covid-19 global pandemic is considered a force majeure event will depend on how the wording is constructed in the contract. Universities will seek to rely on the force majeure clause however, it will be difficult for them to uphold this argument as Covid-19 continues long term.
Whether or not students can claim for a full refund if universities are still providing a service but just delivering in a different way is unlikely however, if the new way of learning will be virtual then a review into the costs of providing courses should be reviewed. This is something that is likely to emerge as we continue and if universities still want to attract students going forwards.
What can students do about their rent?
Many universities have offered partial refunds or reduced rent on student accommodation but there has been no indication that private landlords have offered the same, leaving some students asking for help from their parents where possible. In a situation where a student has both parents that have been furloughed helping to pay for their student accommodation will be difficult and runs the risk of student going into arrears.
Speaking to private landlords and asking for forbearance will be one way of trying to relive some of the pressure for their rental payments. Many landlords will also be worried about their financial position however, they may be entitled to mortgage holidays until 31st March 2021 but currently tenants do not have the right to rental holidays however, they do have protection from eviction until 31st March 2021 under coronavirus legislation.