Almost 80,000 students are taking legal action and demanding refunds over the costly courses disrupted by Covid that left many without the skills they need for the fields they wish to work in. The Times has the story.
When Caitlin McDonald applied for one of the world’s best neuroscience courses at University College London she was told of weekly sessions in high-tech labs, operating machinery and reading brain scans.
Instead, she says, she sat in her bedroom as lecturers on pre-recorded videos struggled to explain where the buttons were on a machine. “They had a picture up and talked us through the safety procedures. They said, ‘you can’t really see on this picture, but there’s actually a really important thing happening over there’. I had to take their word for it.”
McDonald, 25, is one of nearly 80,000 students taking part in mass legal action against universities demanding refunds for the quality of their teaching over lockdown.
For Ryan Dunleavy, the solicitor who is leading the claim on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, the case is straightforward.
“If you book a holiday and pay for a five-star hotel, and when you get there the hotel’s burnt down and they put you in a two-star hotel, you’d want the difference in price between the hotels,” he said.
“The students paid for something which was promised to them. It wasn’t delivered. Yes, lockdown wasn’t the fault of the universities and the pandemic wasn’t the fault of the universities, but just like private schools, and every other service provider I can think of, they should have discounted their fees accordingly. It’s as simple as that.”
Caitlin McDonald, 25, is one of nearly 80,000 students taking part in a mass legal action against universities seeking refunds for the lack of in-person tuition
Of the 109 universities that responded to freedom of information requests by the Times, 64 said they had given no refunds or compensation over teaching quality during COVID-19. Many universities have a blanket policy not to hand over money, while others set up schemes offering compensation in specific circumstances.
The refunds that were paid, totalling £1.5 million, were shared among 1,300 students. However, 1,257,355 students enrolled in their first year in September 2020, paying at least £9,250 in tuition fees each year. If all of them claimed a share of the £1.5 million that would equate to about £1.20 back for poor teaching quality.
More than 99% of affected students have so far received nothing.
Caitlin McDonald was given her degree but now she is looking for a job and a qualification achieved online makes employers think twice.
If I went to work in a lab now I would have to be fully retrained, I would need someone to walk me through step by step which buttons I’m supposed to press. Everyone in my class has gone into branches of psychology instead of neuroscience, as the training just wasn’t there.
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