Students demand strike refunds
UNIVERSITY students facing a month of industrial action by tutors have demanded compensation for lectures they miss but have already paid for in tuition fees.
Lecturers at 61 top universities will strike next week in a row over pensions changes, walking out for up to 14 days over a period of four weeks. Several online petitions have now been launched calling for the universities to refund students for tuition time lost due to the industrial action.
Last night nearly 2,000 students had signed one of the petitions, organised by Conrad White, 18, a student at the University of York, demanding a “fair” £300 refund if the strike went ahead.
The introduction of tuition fees has turned students into consumers. Occasionally, this is misinterpreted by some as an entitlement to a good degree: a graduate recently sued Oxford University over his failure to get a First (his case was dismissed). A much more positive consequence is that studies are now being taken more seriously by young people who want value for money. No wonder that, as we report today, so many students are up in arms about a planned lecturers’ strike.
There was a time when students would probably back industrial action, in some misguided display of theoretical class solidarity, but tuition fees have taught them a lesson in the miseries of union militancy. Any strike in the public sector hurts the public that uses that sector hardest of all; the pain is even greater when one is paying £9,000 a year for the privilege. Students are calling for reimbursement. One of them eloquently explains to this newspaper that it is hypocritical to take his money without extending the basic courtesies of consumer rights.
In fact, students should use their purchasing power to demand more innovation, including shorter, flexible courses and greater use of digital technology to allow remote learning. This would encourage the provision of high-quality education at a much lower cost, reducing excess debt. The fundamental problem is that some universities are still pushing useless, over-priced degrees under the false pretence that all are equal. Applicants should remember the old saying, “caveat emptor”: buyers beware academics offering qualifications that one does not need at prices one cannot afford. It’s time to push the consumer revolution one step further.