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In November 2019 lecturers who were members of the University and College Union voted for strike action over a dispute about pay and conditions and pensions. Strikes took place over 14 days in February and March 2020 and caused disruption to students through lost lectures and tutorials.

On 20 March 2020 universities were closed due to the Covid pandemic, this caused further disruption to students’ as teaching moved to online delivery.

The disruptions caused many students to call for tuition fee refunds. In response the government said that “universities should ensure that a range of appropriate remedies and mitigations were available, which may include financial compensation, to prevent and minimise the effects of any strike action“ and with regard to Covid disruption they said that “if courses were of good quality refunds should not be expected.”.

Several e-petitions were tabled on fee refunds – four petitions on the subject received in total over half a million signatures. On 13 July 2020 the Petitions Committee published a report, The impact of Covid-19 on university students [HC 527], the report recommended a new complaints process for refunds and that the government should provide universities with funds to cover the cost of refunds.

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