James has called for universities to give university students a fair deal with rebates on fees as many are not getting the quality of teaching they are paying for and, to do so without students having to navigate an appeals process that is not designed for this situation.
Speaking in the House of Commons following the government's announcement, James welcomed an additional £50 million to support students impacted by Covid-19 bringing the total to £70 million this financial year.
During an urgent question on support for university students, James said:
"I welcome the extra £50 million to help those most in need and the minister's call for accommodation providers to give rent rebates. However where a service is not delivered as expected then the consumer Is entitled to a refund or credit. So isn't it time universities did the right thing, gave students a fair deal with rebates on fees where students are not getting the quality of teaching they're paying for and to do so without students having to navigate an appeals process were not designed for this situation?"
The new funding means that universities will be able to help students most impacted by the pandemic, for example those facing additional costs for alternative accommodation, loss of employment, or extra costs to access their teaching online. Universities will distribute the funding and will be able to prioritise the funding to those most in need of help.
James has raised this issue with ministers during the pandemic after being contacted by a number of constituents, both students and parents, who have been concerned about the treatment from universities and accommodation providers. They have highlighted the situation of students having to pay full tuition fees when they are not receiving the teaching or experience they are receiving particularly for practical based courses or where field trips and other activity has been cancelled. Some have raised concerns about continuing to pay for accommodation while working remotely and questioned the quality of remote teaching.
Under the existing framework, individual students can make a complaint to their university and if they are not satisfied speak to their provider to see if they can resolve their complaint. If a student at a provider in England or Wales is not satisfied with their provider’s response, they can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) to consider their complaint.