Petitions Committee calls on Government to increase support for universities and students

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If you feel like you are experiencing any Coronavirus symptoms, please follow the advice from the National Health Service – found here.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the House of Commons Petitions Committee MP’s have called the Government’s handling of students and higher education institutions into question.

The Petitions Committee has launched a report calling on the Government to take urgent action and review the support for universities and students in the face of the “greatest challenge they have faced for generations”.

Over the course of its investigation, the Committee received over 28 000 responses from students, parents and university staff who shared their experiences and views on the impact of the outbreak on university education and on the actions they think the Government needs to take.

Credit: petition.parliament.uk

More than 347 000 people have signed the petition calling for the Government to reimburse all students with regards to this years fees.

Thousands of students raised concerns that they had not received a reasonable standard of education due to coronavirus. During the investigation, the Committee also heard evidence on how the outbreak has impacted in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those on more hands-on courses where students need to use university facilities.

Many students can relate to the experience of uncertainty that our futures in education have underwent this year, and worries continue into the next term.

This section previously reported how the government had released a statement, essentially acknowledging that higher education institutions are responsible for their own admissions of failure to meet standards.

The Petitions Committee has been so overwhelmed with responses and petitions created regarding the issue that action was essential and should be praised.

Research by the Petitions Committee found that just 7 per cent of students surveyed felt satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their education they are currently receiving.

The same research found that 87 per cent of students noted their teaching hours had decreased since social distancing guidelines were introduced. Meanwhile, 47 per cent of students surveyed revealed they were paying for university accommodation they don’t currently need.

The report recommends the Government take a number of urgent actions, including clarifying how and when students can claim refunds or repeat parts of their courses, making it easier for those who believe they haven’t received the education they are entitled to seek a refund, and to consider providing additional support for students whose courses have been affected by the outbreak.

Credit: Shishka

The detailed report also recommends that the Government provides emergency funding to universities, to support them in refunding eligible students as they may already face costs of up to £2.5 billion in lost fees and teaching grant income alone.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, said:

“As the Government take steps to protect the economy from COVID-19, it is vital that they now take urgent action to ensure students, and our vitally important institutions, are not left behind as the virus continues to wreak havoc on our higher education system.

“We are calling on the Government to give clarity on students’ rights to a refund for their education. We also believe the Government should consider funding universities to support them in reimbursing student’s fees where it is clear their experience and service has fallen short due to the incredibly challenging situation we have been facing.

It is essential that the government acknowledges and clarifies exactly how and under what circumstances students can be reimbursed. The expenses of education should never be taken for granted.

Feature image credit: Mikael Kristenson/Unsplash

If you feel like you are experiencing any Coronavirus symptoms, please follow the advice from the National Health Service – found here.

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