Universities should consider compensation for students hit by strikes, MP says

Students should get compensation if their education is disrupted by strike action, ministers have suggested.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said it was up to individual institutions whether they paid compensation but students had rights that should be taken into account.

The University and College Union (UCU) is planning a wave of industrial action starting on February 22 in a dispute over pensions.

Mr Gyimah told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics: "By virtue of the fact students pay fees for their education they have consumer rights and I want universities to respect those consumer rights under consumer law and that includes compensation where they are losing out on their courses.

"Obviously each university has to decide on this but I would expect them to respect those rights under consumer law."

He added: "If students have paid fees for their studies and you have extensive strike action, effectively the service they have paid for is not being delivered and I would expect the university to not just sweep that under the carpet but to look at that carefully."

Education Secretary Damian Hinds (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Education Secretary Damian Hinds (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Education Secretary Damian Hinds told BBC's Andrew Marr Show that students had "rights as consumers", adding: "Universities are autonomous institutions, it's for them to make these decisions but I would expect that will be taken into account."

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Students are understandably worried about the strikes, and angry that their universities appear to be doing absolutely nothing to avert the most disruptive strike action ever seen on UK campuses.

"It is unsurprising that some students are seeking redress for disruption to a service they feel they are paying for.

"We would encourage all students to contact their vice-chancellor and urge them to put pressure on Universities UK to return to negotiations in an effort to avoid unnecessary disruption."

The universities affected by strike action will seek to have plans put in place to minimise disruption to students.

A Universities UK spokeswoman said: "The USS pension scheme has a deficit of £6.1 billion and the cost of future pensions benefits has increased by one third since 2014.

"To maintain current benefits overall contributions would have to increase by approximately £1 billion every year.

"We hope that employees recognise that changes are necessary to put the scheme on a secure footing, and that the proposed strike action will only serve to unfairly disrupt students' education."

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