The first wave of UCU strikes has ended today after 14 days of action. UCU may announce a second wave of strikes in the coming weeks, and we will keep you updated on how further industrial action may impact upon teaching and assessments.
Many students have raised the issue of fee reimbursement with us, so we wanted to update you on the work we have done in this area, and provide a straightforward guide to submitting a complaint and request for compensation.
The Officer team have raised the issue of fee reimbursement with the College a number of times, as we are aware that students are keen to get assurances that they would be receiving some money back. After much lobbying, it has become clear that the College is not willing to issue collective reimbursements, and instead want to review all complaints on an individual basis, the reason for this being that: “students might have different experiences and might be complaining for different reasons”.
The Officers have also spent time trying to ensure that assessments and examinations are not hindered by the strikes, and we hope the College will release more information on this soon.
Tara, Welfare and Diversity Officer, sits on the Mitigation Working Group, which meets regularly to discuss the impact of the strike, and she’s been raising other concerns to the College, including on registrations, complaints and wellbeing support.
Our Guide to Complaints and Compensation Requests
Students who were affected by the industrial action are able to make a complaint and request a partial reimbursement of tuition fees in compensation. If you were affected by the strike, for example, because you lost teaching hours that weren’t rescheduled, here’s a guide to the complaints procedure. All complaints must be raised within three months of the issue.
This guide only refers to complaints relating to the recent industrial action; please see our general guide to complaints if your issue relates to anything else.
Stage One Complaints
You need to begin the process by lodging a stage one complaint, otherwise known as ‘Front-Line Resolution’. This means that you need to raise the issue with your home department; there is no one way of doing this, but we recommend that you email your department. Many departments are creating a specific email address for strike-related complaints. If you are unsure who to contact, ask your personal tutor or department office.
In this complaint, you should outline the impact that the strike has had on you, which could include the amount of teaching that you have lost, how you anticipate it will impact upon your assessments, or the impact on your wellbeing. You could also include what you think the College should have done to resolve the situation.
Your department will then try to resolve this locally. Once two weeks have passed, or if the stage one complaint is not dealt with to your satisfaction, you are able to move on to a stage two complaint.
Stage Two Complaints
In order to escalate your complaint, you need to fill in a stage two complaints form. A different form for complaints relating to the UCU strike has been created, which you can access here.
When you’re filling in the form, it will be helpful for you to focus on how you have been personally affected by the strike, and any losses that you have incurred as a result. You should also think about what the College either did or did not do to reduce the effect of the strike.
It’s a good idea to also state what remedy you want from the complaint, which may include a partial reimbursement of your tuition fees. It’s very difficult to calculate a number (as we explain more below), but it could help to estimate an amount, taking into account the amount of teaching you have lost, but balancing this with facilities that were still available.
The College has told us there are plans for some teaching to be rescheduled, and for this reason you may need to wait to submit your stage two complaint until you have received this information. The complaint needs to consider the impact the strike has had on you, and this may be partially remedied after the conclusion of the strike. It’s likely you’ll better be able to submit your complaint once you know whether you’ll have alternative teaching.
Unfortunately, there is currently no College guidance on how they plan to compensate for missed lectures. In general, compensation complaints are divided into two categories: ‘actual financial loss’ and ‘stress and inconvenience’.
Calculating financial loss is very difficult, as although teaching hours have been lost, the College has continued to provide some support during the strike action, including Library resources and studio spaces, and this is likely to be taken into account when financial loss is calculated.
Students’ Union Advice Service
We hope this guide has helped, but if you need further support or advice, our advice team can help with all stages of the student complaints process. You can contact the team through their online form, and they’ll be in touch.
We're also putting on a Complaints and Compensation Workshop on Wednesday 21st March, from 3 - 4pm in the SU Venue, where we'll go through all of the above in detail and you can ask any questions you have.