Factual pattern.

Many university staff joined the UCU Industrial actions from 2021-2. Many professors cancelled classes. After students requested a refund, many Universities replied like this

Here is how we calculate the amount of refund for all students. We start with the number of hours of lost learning, divide this by your total number of scheduled academic hours this year, then multiply your yearly tuition fee. Finally, we divide by 2, in line with the approach taken by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) for industrial action complaints in previous years. The OIA recommended a 50% reduction to account for the university services that continued throughout industrial action, which include — but are not limited to — the campuses, IT and library facilities, wellbeing and other student support and administration. [my emphasis] [I skip the calculations.] The university is offering you compensation of £300, in full and final settlement of your claim arising out of the industrial action from November 2021 to April 2022.

Case law and legislation that I found.

A solicitors firm in England, Leigh Day wrote

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015) students at Higher Education Institutions in the UK are legally classed as ‘consumers’, which means they are entitled to the same protection as any other person in the UK who has purchased an item or a service. While universities are acting under government advice by making changes to the way in which they deliver teaching and assessment, the CRA still requires that Higher Education Institutions carry out their services with “reasonable care and skill”.

On 2 November 2016, solicitor Salima Mawji wrote the following (before she left Match Solicitors).

The recently enacted Consumer Rights Act 2015 concerns itself with the rights of UK consumers, including university students who have purchased a service (the provision of education) from UK universities.

The relationship between students and universities involves elements of both private and public law, as determined by the Court of Appeal in Clark v University of Lincolnshire and Humberside [2000] EWCA Civ 129.

I aware of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 s 56:

56 Right to price reduction

(1)The right to a price reduction is the right to require the trader to reduce the price to the consumer by an appropriate amount (including the right to receive a refund for anything already paid above the reduced amount).

Legal issues + questions.

  1. The university's 50% reduction feels unwarranted, because during all industrial action hours, many students were at home. Particularly the Overseas ones! They never used any university service, or website! Therefore university must not charge them.

  2. Universities can stray from the OIA's recommendations that are not legally binding.

  3. How can students best rebuff University's 50% reduction? What other cases and legislations can bolster their case for 100% reduction?

1 Answer 1



In general, a person is only entitled to a refund under a contract if there is a total failure of consideration. Since the university provided some of the services it contracted to provide, the failure was not total and a refund is not warranted.

This is a straightforward breach of contract (the public law issues aren't relevant here) and the appropriate remedy is damages to restore the student to the position they would have been in if the services had been delivered as contracted.

The university is making a settlement offer and they explain how they arrived at that figure. The student can accept the offer and the matter ends. Or, they can decide that the damage they suffered is in excess of £300 and choose to sue and prove the damage they suffered in court.

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    Jul 11, 2022 at 23:14

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