University rules out general ‘financial reimbursement’ to students affected by strikes and Covid-19

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The announcement comes after an academic year in which staff repeatedly walked out amid UCU strikesLouis Ashworth/Varsity

The University has ruled out offering any general financial reimbursements to students affected by disruption caused by recent strikes or the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an email distributed to all students earlier this week (20/06), Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Vice Provost for Education, said that while “some students may consider that they have suffered or significant financial damages…and believe they have valid grounds for complaint against the University” as a result of the strikes and/or the pandemic, the University would not offer “expense reimbursement or financial reimbursement in general to students.

This announcement is repeated in the University’s official guidelines regarding complaints on the basis of Covid-19 and the strike during the last academic year, mentioned by Virgo in his email. The guidance states that while the University recognizes the impact of these two factors on student education over the past year, “few (if any) students will have actually been materially disadvantaged as a result of industrial action and Covid-19” due to past actions taken by the University to mitigate their impact “where possible”.

These actions would include “rearranging teaching where possible, providing as much in-person teaching as possible, teaching online if in-person was not possible, changing exams or assessments where appropriate (while maintaining academic standards) and the provision of pastoral support and guidance. ”

Defending its position on financial reimbursement, the official guideline states that “tuition fees are charged for a wide range of educational institutions, services and learning opportunities” beyond just educational institutions. , and that teaching obligations were met (albeit in alternate formats) despite the obstacles posed by strikes and the pandemic.

It also states that “the admissions requirements, which students agree to when accepting a place at Cambridge, include a clause which states that the University will not be liable for matters beyond the control of the University, which explicitly includes strikes or other industrial actions, pandemics and restrictions imposed by government or public authorities. Virgo’s email also claims the impact of the strikes and Covid-19 on Cambridge students was “sector-wide and affected by decisions made outside of the university”.

Virgo’s email and University guidance emphasizes the formal procedures available to students wishing to seek compensation for an alleged disruption to education. Students can request an exam review “if they believe their exam performance has been negatively affected” by Covid-19 or a strike.

Formal complaints can also be filed by students who “consider they have suffered significant financial loss or damage as a result of industrial action and/or the pandemic and who believe they have one or more valid grounds for complaint. against the University.

Virgo directed students to the University’s existing student complaint procedure. Complaint forms must be submitted by July 18. Virgo wrote that this was “an extended deadline to give students time to gather and provide information on the full impact of their situation.”

He noted that complainants were supposed to have “first raised their concerns directly with the relevant department or faculty at the time of the events giving rise to the complaint.”

The announcement comes after an academic year in which staff have repeatedly walked out amid UCU strikes over pension cuts and the ‘four fights’ dispute, over issues such as pay , job security, workload and equality.

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