Students across the country have been facing additional controls with some confined to their accommodation after COVID-19 outbreaks. As the coronavirus infection rate increased some in-person teaching was cancelled, and replaced with online lectures via video apps like Zoom.
During the initial COVID-19 lockdown classes and exams took place entirely online to halt the disease’s spread.
Refund Us Now, a new group founded by Glasgow University student James Yucel, is demanding a 15 percent cash refund from universities which transformed their teaching plans due to COVID-19.
In a statement the group said: “Refund Us Now is a campaign founded in response to the abysmal treatment of those studying in the UK today. Grassroots. Student-led.
“Our aim is to secure 15 percent cash refunds for every single student who has been lied to, manipulated and now subjected to overly reactive and draconian measures at the hands of their universities and governments.
“Our aim is to secure 15 percent cash refunds”
Students have been posting protest signs on the windows of their rooms
“Why 15 percent? That is the level to which studies have found online teaching to be less effective than in-person teaching, with research clearly indicating “performance of students in e-schools is considerably lower than peers in traditional schools” to quote one international study.
“We were promised ‘blended learning’ and a safe return to university life. We have been cheated with pre-recorded lectures and locked in our rooms without the ability nor freedom to see our loved ones.”
According to Tory MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Selection Committee, more than 3,000 students were placed into lockdown across Britain.
Mr Halfon suggested universities should offer discounts to students who are not receiving in-person lessons.
Late last month students at Manchester Met’s Birley and Cambridge Halls claimed they were prevented from leaving by security guards after lockdown was imposed.
One satirically wrote ‘HMP Met’ along their window with post-it notes.
“We have been cheated with pre-recorded lectures”
In their statement Refund Us Now added: “Not content with profiting from our tuition fees and extortionate rent for substandard accommodation, our universities are now enforcing ridiculous rules and regulations with the threat of suspending their students should they choose to break them.
“The commodity we pay for has not and will not be delivered to the standard promised, nor the standard deserved. Why can this industry avoid its duty to refund its customers for poor performance and rampant misinformation?
“Let’s be clear – if it were a different product dominated by a cartel of providers and the quality decreased by 15% with no recourse to action, the relevant authorities would rightly step up.
“Like a failing student, if the universities won’t buck their own ideas up then someone must ensure they do, otherwise, the sector and students will suffer.
“Students are being blamed and berated for following the advice we were given, and now we are being held hostage by our universities. We cannot and will not stand for this. We will not be silent; we will not be complicit.”
Mr Yucel said he decided to found the new group after learning his lessons would be online only.
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Students across the UK have been forced into lockdown
A student receives a food delivery at university
Speaking to Express.co.uk he said: “It was exodus. Everyone was fleeing the city and rightly outraged. We were told we would be studying via a hybrid system where some of our course would be online and some in person – which is why we all came up to Glasgow, under the assumption we *had* to be there.
“Now we know the course is likely to be online for the entire year, we are severely out of pocket because of the money we’ve spent on rent, living fees, bills, textbooks etc
“I personally fled on a 6am train to London on Saturday [26 September]. It must have been one of the stressful days of my life to learn our course was online in the afternoon and only have a few hours to pack up my life.”
Glasgow University insist they are responding to student concerns and are offering all those living in halls of residence a one month rent refund, £50 for food and other supplies and drop-in sessions by staff.
Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli commented: “I hear the concerns of our students in residences and I appreciate how difficult this situation is for them. From today we are rolling out significant extra support measures so they can more easily access food, health and wellbeing and other supplies.
“This isn’t the start of academic life we would wish for anyone. To get on top of this outbreak we need to work together and support each other, I would like to offer my profound and sincere thanks to everyone who is isolating for playing their part.”
When approached by Express.co.uk Universities UK, the representative group for British universities, said: “Blanket tuition fee refunds would be unaffordable for universities.
“Blanket tuition refunds would be unaffordable for universities”
“Universities have spent much more compared with a ‘normal’ year on COVID-19 safety measures, enhanced digital learning platforms, putting additional student learning support and catch-up study in place.
“No matter how university courses are delivered, the important thing is that students are supported to achieve the required learning outcomes. In this very difficult year, universities are aiming to provide a high quality and engaging educational experience for their students, while prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing.
“If students have a complaint, they should speak to their universities in the first instance. If they are not satisfied with the response, they are able to escalate their concerns. In England and Wales this would be to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). Students in Scotland can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. Students in Northern Ireland can take their complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman.”