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Universities are now being forced to pay students compensation after their studies were disrupted due to the pandemic, with one coughing up £5,000 ($6,900) following a pause on clinical placements.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) has released a series of case summaries detailing complaints students have made about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on their education, with concerns about disrupted learning, accommodation and missing out on practical elements of courses.
In 2020, the OIA received a total of 2,604 complaints - 500 of which specifically related to the effects of the pandemic.
One such complaint came from an international medical student paying course fees of £38,000 ($52,000) at an unnamed institution.
The university stopped all clinical placements due to the pandemic, meaning the student did not benefit from vital practical experience.
The OIA said the student has been awarded £5,000 due to the 'severe disappointment and inconvenience' they experienced because their final year of studies had been 'less valuable' than expected.
A healthcare student has also been awarded £1,500 ($2,000) for the 'inconvenience and significant disappointment' they faced after a lab-based research project that was part of their Master's degree course was cancelled.
Felicity Mitchell, independent adjudicator, said: "The case summaries reflect the hugely challenging and complex situations that students and providers have faced as a result of the pandemic.
"Where possible we try to reach a settlement and we are pleased that in many cases providers and students have been very open to this.
"The summaries illustrate our approach to deciding what is fair and reasonable in these kinds of situations. We hope they will be helpful to providers and students."
However, not all complaints were upheld by the adjudicator, with one student denied a refund on their university accommodation fees from March to April, during which period they'd left their accommodation as the first lockdown was announced but had paid in advance.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We have been clear that the quality and quantity of tuition should not drop, and should be accessible to all students, regardless of their background. The Office for Students is monitoring online teaching to ensure this is the case."
The group Universities UK advised students to 'speak to their universities in the first instance' if they have a complaint they wish to raise.
A spokeswoman added: "Universities are developing plans to support students to have the fullest possible experience when they return to campuses. "
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