You may be able to claim compensation as a result of the industrial action. Some students will want to instruct a solicitor in order to make a claim against the University, but you can also pursue a claim yourself, by making a complaint. You can do this with support of Student Advice in the Students' Union.
How do I claim compensation?
Where you feel that you have grounds for seeking compensation from the University, your first step is to make a complaint. For any industrial action affecting the 2022/23 academic year, any complaints should be made using the University Complaints Procedure. It may be that, over the course of the academic year, the University release a specific complaints procedure for industrial action. Prior to any announcement by the University, Student Advice recommend to proceed using the current University Complaints Procedure. Preceding this, it is important to keep any evidence of the impact and effect of industrial action and to make note of any disruption caused, should you wish to make a complaint at a later date.
Where you have made a complaint and you don't think the outcome is fair, you can apply to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, for a review of that decision.
Can I apply directly to the OIA?
It is unlikely that the OIA would accept your complaint unless you had exhausted the University's internal procedures and been issued with a 'Completion of Procedures' letter (OIA Rule 7.3). There are exceptional circumstances in which you may be able to apply directly to the OIA. (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051913)
What grounds do I need to satisfy in my complaint to claim compensation?
There are three bases upon which the University will be required to compensate you. These are where the University has failed to:
- Ensure you have met the learning outcomes of your programme of study;
- Minimise the impact of industrial action on your academic interests, and/or;
- Effectively minimise the distress and inconvenience arrising from industrial action.
The University has an obligation to minimise the impact of industrial action on students and take sufficient steps to 'make up for' a students' missed learning opportunities. It can do this using a variety measures, and successful compensation claims would have to show in some way that measures taken by the University have failed to adequately make up for missed learning opportunities.
Can I claim compensation, even if I get my qualification?
If a considerable amount of teaching time has been cancelled, and the learning outcomes for the modules couldn't have been delivered in full, students can ask for compensation. The OIA has said that 'most students do not study with higher education providers purely to gain a qualification. Other things are important to them too, such as attending lectures and seminars led by academics.' (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051902).
Can I claim compensation, even if I was not assessed on missed content?
It is possible.
The OIA says 'students who expect to learn about a particular subject, but who don't receive the teaching they are supposed to get are not adequately compensated by the provider [University] undertaking not to test them on it. It is reasonable to expect providers to make some attempt to make up for what has been missed, but it doesn't have to be a like-for-like replacement of teaching hours.' (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051908).
How is compensation calculated?
Compensation for failure to make up for missed learning content or failure to deliver learning outcomes is dealt with on the basis of refunding tuition fees. This is calculated based on 'notional cost of the teaching hours missed, reduced by 50%, taking into account that HE providers have to provide and maintain buildings, IT and library facilities, wellbeing and other student support and administration.' (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051902)
Students can also claim financial compensation for distress and inconvenience, where the industrial action has impacted them in such a way. Guidance as to the calculation of distress and inconvenience payments can be found in the OIA's Putting Things Right guidance. Several Universities have chosen to set up ex gratia compensation funds and awards of £130 - £200 are well reported in relevant OIA cases. The OIA takes note of whether Student Support services are affected by Industrial Action. (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051902) (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051907).
What if my academic performance has been affected?
You may wish to reference this in your complaint, with associated evidence, and this may be taken into account when calculating compensation. If however you are seeking an academic remedy (i.e. re-assessment, change to grades/transcripts, discounting etc) you should make an academic appeal. You can make both an academic appeal and a complaint, and reference them in each other.
What if I am in the final year of my course?
Where students have completed their course, are in the final year, or where for whatever reason there are fewer opportunities to make up for lost learning opportunities, this may affect the University's ability to effectively limit the impact of the industrial action for you. This lack of additional opportunity to make up for missed opportunities, may be taken into account when calculating compensation. (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051905) (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051908) (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051909).
What if I have a disability, mental health condition or learning impairment?
It is considered good practice for Universities to explain how they consider the needs of disabled students when deciding what to do about industrial action. Mitigating action should take into account students' different needs and learning styles. The OIA has also said that Universities need to recognise and consider 'the individual effect of the industrial action on the student', and whether 'it is reasonable to take further action or provide additional support because of the student's individual circumstances'. (OIA Industrial Action Case CS051913)
Where students have a disability, mental health condition or learning impairment that means the industrial action disruption would affect them more, or mitigating actions would have helped less, you should reference this in your complaint.
If you need any further guidance or would like to talk to us about making a complaint regarding industrial action, fill out the form below or contact us on the details below.
Contact Student Advice
(0) +44 2920 781 410