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This academic year is not what we signed up for. At the start of the year, UCL made a commitment to uphold academic standards through a combination of online and face-to-face teaching. Measures were put in place to achieve this, however, since the start of the academic year, the pandemic in the UK has only worsened.

London was in lockdown from the start of November, all teaching was moved online from the start of December, and then in January, a new national lockdown was introduced and we were advised not to return to campus. There was no face-to-face teaching in term two and the Government has now said that a return to face-to-face teaching won’t happen until 17 May 2021 at the earliest. 

This is not what UCL expected to happen, it’s not what you expected to happen, and it’s no longer the kind of education you agreed to pay for at the start of this year.

When we talk about education, we talk about the holistic educational experience of being with your peers, meeting new people, trying new things, joining clubs, forming communities, socialising, and experiencing the environment of UCL, and of London. Despite enormous effort, this can’t be replicated online. 

The Government has intervened to provide financial support for parts of the UK that have suffered significantly from the impact of Coronavirus, but why not students? We’ve paid full fees for an almost fully online experience – and it’s not good enough.

The Government should recognise the need to have a national policy on tuition fee refunds and provide funding to enable universities to deliver these refunds. Let’s make it happen.

We want a Government-funded fee refund for all students this year.

We’re running a coordinated, multi-faceted campaign. A combination of campaigning and influencing work that will make the case for fair treatment of students at UK Universities. Our aim is unprecedented, there has never been sector-wide fee refunds before. But these are unprecedented times. 

Influencing the influencers

Organisations such as the Russell Group and Universities UK hold significant influence over Higher Education policy in the UK, regularly meeting with Government to develop education policy. We’ll seek to influence these organisations and make the case for a fair outcome for students. 

UCL’s newly appointed Provost, Dr Michael Spence, is now an influential figure in UK Higher Education and within the Russel Group and UUK. In January we met with the Provost and asked for his support to build a strong coalition for a national policy on tuition fee refunds across the Higher Education sector. 

Read our 10 priorities for the new Provost

Collective action

We’ve joined students’ unions across the UK, under the banner of ‘Students United Against Fees’ or SUAF. We’re helping to lead this national movement.

The SUAF campaign is seeking to build a coalition between students, universities and unions to make sure that the Government takes responsibility for compensating students and supporting our sector.

Read more

Sign the fee refunds petition


Students are often forgotten about in the national press, or portrayed poorly. Students were blamed for Covid case numbers rising in September despite being told it was safe to return, or attend, university. We need to change this, and recalibrate the national portrayal of students. 

This is starting to happen, the Universities Minister was put under pressure on breakfast TV over the unfair treatment of students, and the call for fee refunds even made it to the front page of a national newspaper.

We need to get better at sharing the story of this year, and the impact it’s had on students. If you’d like to share your experiences with us, use the link below.

Tell us your story of studying in the pandemic

Direct influencing

If you are resident in the UK, contact your Member of Parliament directly, by email, letter or social media. You can contact the MP of the constituency of your home address, or contact Kier Starmer, the MP for UCL’s constituency of Holborn and St Pancras. If you’re an international student, contact the Universities Minister directly. 

If contacting your MP through social media, tag us using @TheUnionUCL

In the section below we’ll share tips on how to contact your MP and what to say.

Find your MP

Our Sabbatical Officers have met with Kier Starmer and Michele Donelan to raise the issue of fee refunds on your behalf.

Write to your Member of Parliament. Explain what you’re experiencing and why you’re joining our call for a Government intervention on tuition fees. Writing to your MP is a good way to raise awareness of an issue. The more constituent correspondence an MP receives about an issue, the more likely it is that issue will be raised in Parliament - in committees, in questions to Ministers and in debates. This all helps to put the issue of fee refunds on the agenda.

You will almost always receive a response from the MP’s office. We’ve created a template you can use to either post or email to your MP, and instructions on how to find their contact details. 

Ask your parents to contact their MP too. This will help show how much this issue matters, making it clear that tuition fee refunds are something that more than just students support.

If using social media to contact your MP, remember to be polite. The aim of this is to win the support of Members of Parliament.

Write to your MP using our template:

  1. Search for your MP using the TheyWorkForYou website. We’d advise you to contact your home MP.
  2. Open our letter template below, copy and paste into an email or word doc.
  3. Edit the details on the template, adding your name, address etc.
  4. Explain clearly why this matters and include a description of your own experience this year.
  5. Either post your letter or email it using the MP’s email address found on TheyWorkForYou.
  6. Follow up if you don’t get a reply within two weeks. 

Open our letter template

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this campaign include Postgrads and International students?

Yes. We’re stronger when we work together, so our campaign aims to win refunds for all students.

Should I still pay fees this term?

Yes. At this stage we don’t know how long this campaign will last and whether we’ll win fee refunds and we advise you to continue paying fees as normal.

What do you want to achieve?

We’re aiming for full refunds for all students. A precedent has to be set that the university experience this year has not been value for money - negotiating compensation for different students on different courses only weakens the overall case.

Can I apply for an individual refund?

You may have valid grounds for a complaint if you’ve simply been denied access to education. You can use the UCL Students Complaint Procedure to make your case, with the support of our Advice Service. One of the outcomes of the complaint may be a fee refund.

Make use of our Advice Service who are independent from UCL and available to support any student through the entire process. It is also important to note that, as part of the guarantees of a fair hearing, a Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer will always be one of the panellists at the Complaints Panel Hearing if it needs to reach that stage.

Is there a hashtag?

Yes. Use #ForgottenStudents