The University of Reading (UoR) has rejected a request to refund part of students tuition fees for this year.

The Reading University Students’ Union had written an open letter asking the university to refund some of students tuition fees during this turbulent year.

It said the disruption to the student community has been “extraordinary in nature, such as two national lockdowns, disruption of teaching and learning, lack of face to face lectures and a significantly impacted in-person student activities” and called for an “extraordinary response”.

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UoR vice-chancellor professor Robert Van de Noort responded on Tuesday, saying the university will not refund any tuition fees.

He said: “We have worked hard to adapt all aspects of our provision to deliver on learning outcomes and provide the best learning experience possible for our students this year, in ways that keep our whole community safe.”

“Although we have had to move most teaching online this term, at the government’s request and until the government confirms we may resume classes on campus, our blended learning environment was designed with this flexibility in mind, as many students have been unable to be on campus and have been studying online since the beginning of the year.

Reading Chronicle: University vice-chancellor, Professor Robert Van de NoortUniversity vice-chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort

“As far as possible we have continued to safely deliver practical sessions for relevant subjects, as well as continuing to provide opportunities such as placements.

“We are confident that this flexible approach will enable students to meet their programme learning outcomes, whether they are on campus or studying at a distance.”

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Professor Van de Noort said the university has invested in areas such as new Covid-19 support teams, student support funds, and hall fee waivers.

And the vice-chancellor said students with concerns about the level of teaching or support they have received should speak to their module convenor or academic tutor to resolve this.

The union said it is “thrilled” about the university’s decision to offer students in halls accommodations a temporary fee waiver following its request but added: “We do not think this action alone is sufficient compensation for the student body.”

The RUSU also asked the university:

  • To lobby private landlords so students in private housing can receive their money back on their rent
  • To implement a no detriment policy
  • To go above and beyond to deliver on the social experience for students once the pandemic is over.

Professor Van de Noort said he is finalising a letter to private landlords and also finalising arrangements to ensure students are fairly recognised for their hard work this year and not disadvantaged academically due to circumstances arising from COVID-19 that are beyond their control.

And he added: “As soon as we are safely and legally able to do so, we will work with you to offer students the many and varied on-campus opportunities that they would usually enjoy.”