The University of Sheffield's student compensation and refund policy.

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Undergraduate and postgraduate taught students
  4. Postgraduate research students
  5. Eligibility
  6. Opportunity to transfer programme
  7. External review
  8. Compensation plan
  9. Payments
  10. Individual claims process
  11. Group claims process
  12. Consideration of claims for compensation or refunds
  13. Changes to this policy

1. Introduction

1.1 This Student Compensation and Refund Policy ("Policy") is part of the University's student protection plan and reflects the University's commitment to the student experience and to supporting students to achieve their academic outcomes.

View the student protection plan

1.2 Before applying for a refund or compensation under this Policy, the University expects students to have completed the University's student complaints procedure first.

1.3 If you submit a formal complaint through the student complaints procedure and have that complaint upheld, you may wish to apply to the University for a refund or compensation, including financial compensation, under this Policy.

Students can apply for a full or partial refund of tuition fees, and a full or partial refund of wider expenses incurred in the course of studying at the University. Compensation may take the form of a financial refund, price reduction or repeat provision of service.

This Policy does not replace the University's tuition fee refund policy, which applies to situations where a student voluntarily elects to withdraw, transfer or take a leave of absence period away from their studies).

1.4 This Policy covers situations that are outside the control of students: where the University is no longer able to preserve continuation of study for one or more students; where there has been prolonged disruption to a programme of study; or where the programme of study has been subject to significant change.

This Policy sets out the circumstances in which the University will refund tuition fees and other relevant costs to students where appropriate.

1.5 The University considers refunds and compensation to be a remedy of last resort and is committed to using its best endeavours to ensure that all students are able to continue and complete their studies.

However, it recognises that it is important to explain how the University will compensate students in the unlikely circumstances where this will not be possible.

1.6 The University is not liable for events outside of its control, as set out in the Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer.

1.7 Students are advised that in addition to the rights set out in this Policy they also have additional statutory remedies under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

2. Definitions

2.1 A refund means the repayment of sums paid by a student to the University or an appropriate reduction in the amount of sums owed in the future. This may include tuition fees, other course costs or accommodation costs.

2.2 Compensation means some other recognisable loss suffered by the student. This can fall into two categories:

2.2.1 compensating the student for wasted out-of-pocket expenses they have incurred, which were paid to someone other than the University (such as travel costs); or

2.2.2 an amount to recompense for material disadvantage to the student arising from a failure by the University to discharge its duties appropriately.

2.3 Compensation may take the form of a remedy without a financial payment, such as an apology or a goodwill gesture, but could also take the form of a discount, a financial payment or some other form of benefit.

2.4 A reference to the University no longer being able to preserve continuation of study means that the University has terminated or intends to terminate:

2.4.1 an academic programme of study on which an individual has accepted a place before that individual can enrol as a student;

2.4.2 an academic programme of study on which a student is enrolled before that student has completed that course; or

2.4.3 a postgraduate programme of research study.

3. Undergraduate and postgraduate taught students

3.1 In circumstances where the University is no longer able to preserve continuation of an academic programme of study, and students have already commenced study on that programme, students may make a claim for compensation where they are forced to withdraw from the University.

This will only apply when the University is ceasing to deliver an academic programme of study before registered students of that programme of study have completed their studies and where the student and the University have failed to agree on a suitable alternative programme on which to transfer, at this or another university.

Should such a transfer result in additional costs relating to tuition fees or travel costs, students can also apply for financial compensation in respect of these additional costs.

3.2 The University will always aim to teach students to the end of their programme of study even when a decision has been taken to close a programme of study and to cease admissions to it.

4. Postgraduate research students

4.1 For postgraduate research students, the programme of study means the funding period as defined by the sponsor of the research. In the case of self-funding students, this is their tuition fee paying period.

These dates are recorded at the point of registration as a research student of the University. In circumstances where a postgraduate research supervisor leaves the University, we will always seek to make sure that alternative supervisory arrangements can be put in place to allow for the completion of the programme of research.

4.2 We will not compensate students who a) personally elect to move to another university with their original supervisor or b) reject any reasonable offer of alternative supervisory arrangements, unless they can evidentially demonstrate that these are in fact manifestly unreasonable.

Where alternative supervision is unavailable, and the student is forced to withdraw due to unavailability of appropriate supervision, the student will be eligible to apply for compensation under this Policy. The policy does not apply to students who withdraw for other reasons (eg immigration, visa or financial reasons).

4.3 If the student is forced to withdraw from the University due to non-continuation of appropriate research provision, and does not transfer to another university to continue their research study, the student may apply for compensation.

Students in these circumstances may also transfer to a different postgraduate research programme of study at this or another university (not with their original supervisor). If this results in additional costs relating to tuition fees or travel costs, students may also apply for financial compensation in respect of these additional costs.

5. Eligibility

5.1 This Policy applies to all students currently enrolled at the University and any applicants who have accepted a place on a relevant programme of study.

5.2 This Policy will not apply to individuals who have completed their studies at the University unless, in accordance with the student complaints procedure, they have submitted a complaint within six months of the end of their registration period that becomes upheld.

6. Opportunity to transfer programme

6.1 In the unlikely event of the University not being able to 'teach out' students on a programme that is being discontinued, students will be offered the opportunity to transfer to another programme at the University.

If there is no suitable alternative programme at the University, the University will support students to transfer to a suitable programme at another UK university.

6.2 Where a postgraduate research student is no longer able to be supervised on their original research programme, alternative supervision will be sought.

If no alternative supervision is available, an alternative research programme may be offered in a related area of study. If there is no feasible alternative research programme that is acceptable to the student, and the programme of study is therefore ceased by the University, the student, or their sponsor, can apply for a refund and/or compensation.

7. External review

If a student remains dissatisfied with the outcome of a claim for compensation under this Policy, the student may be able to apply for a review of the claim by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education ("OIA").

This is an independent review scheme external to and independent of the University's complaint procedure. The OIA will normally only review issues that have been dealt with through the student complaints procedure.

The Student Advice Centre (student login required) in the Students' Union can offer further advice on an external review.

8. Compensation plan

8.1 The University will put in place a Compensation Plan relevant to the circumstances of the individual student or students. This includes provision for compensation in respect of additional costs reasonably incurred by students as a result of any transfer of programme or cessation of programme of study.

8.2 The University will also ensure that its plan for dealing with the programme of study cessation includes appropriate provision for communicating with and compensating applicants who have accepted a place on a programme of study (but not yet started their studies), to include as a minimum, an offer of advice and support to help them decide whether or not to apply for a different programme of study at the University or seek a suitable alternative at a different university.

For further details of support available to students, see the student protection plan.

8.3 Enrolled students, and any applicants who have accepted a place on the relevant programme of study, should also take reasonable steps, in line with advice given by the University, to mitigate the situation.

8.4 Any payments associated with a compensation plan will include appropriate provision for:

8.4.1 tuition fee costs;

8.4.2 maintenance costs and lost time following a closure of a programme of study;

8.4.3 tuition and maintenance costs where students have to transfer to a different programme of study or university;

8.4.4 commitments to honour student bursaries;

8.4.5 reasonably incurred accommodation costs;

8.4.6 travel costs as a result of relocation of the programme of study; and

8.4.7 other university-related costs, eg sports club membership

9. Payments

9.1 Where a student's fees are paid by the Student Loans Company ("SLC"), as part of a tuition fee loan or grant, any refund will be made to the SLC.

9.2 Where a student's fees are paid by the student, any refund will be made to their bank account.

9.3 If a student's fees are paid by their employer or another third party, any refund will be made to the bank account of the employer or third party.

9.4 All refunds will be paid within 14 days of the refund being approved by the University.

10. Individual claims process

10.1 Following completion of the student complaints procedure, a student may use this Policy to seek financial redress if they remain dissatisfied with the outcome. Queries about the application of this Policy should be addressed to in the first instance. Claims submitted by students under this Policy should:

10.1.1 confirm that the student has exhausted the student complaints procedure; and

10.1.2 set out the impact of the programme change and what steps the student has taken to mitigate this.

10.2 Upon receipt of a claim under this Policy the University will consider the detail of the claim against the factors in paragraph 12 below. The University shall provide a written response to the student within 15 working days of receipt of the student's claim.

11. Group claims process

11.1 Where a problem has potentially affected a large number of students, the University may use a separate streamlined process for dealing with groups of complaints.

This will be consistent with the student complaints procedure. Should this situation arise, the University will make the process clear to students and ensure that this is fair and proportionate.

In the event that a student would prefer to use the student complaints procedure individually, they will not be prevented from doing so. The University could decide that an issue arising from an individual complaint affects more than just that individual and apply this Policy more widely.

11.2 The University will consider the factors set out in paragraph 12 below in assessing any group claim.

11.3 If a student's complaint is dealt with through this group process rather than the student complaints procedure and a student is dissatisfied with the outcome, the student will be offered the option of receiving a Completion of Procedures letter in order to progress a complaint to the OIA.

11.4 If students use the group process and are satisfied with the proposed outcome, this will be in full and final settlement of all claims arising out of the same issue.

12. Consideration of claims for compensation or refunds

12.1 Factors the University will consider in assessing individual and group claims under this Policy are:

12.1.1 whether the University had failed to deliver any specific undertakings that had been given to the student for the way in which the programme of study was delivered;

12.1.2 whether there had been a failure by the University to deliver against material information agreed with the student at the point of acceptance of the offer;

12.1.3 whether a period of prolonged disruption, without sufficient remedial action, has jeopardised the ability of the University to offer guided learning in a manner that ensures students have a fair and reasonable opportunity to develop appropriate levels of understanding required for the programme of study;

12.1.4 whether there has there been a demonstrable loss to the student, and in particular if the student has been able to achieve the learning outcomes for their programme of study;

12.1.5 whether the University followed its own processes in delivering the programme of study (such as quality assurance and communications to students);

12.1.6 whether the student has been affected in relation to their final degree award, accreditation award or ability to take up a job offer;

12.1.7 whether the student has met their own responsibility to minimise losses;

12.1.8 whether the student accepted any reasonable adjustments that were implemented for students to mitigate against any loss, and if so consideration of whether a student was still disadvantaged despite the alternative arrangements; and

12.1.9 whether if a complaint is made due to disruption to a student's learning experience which is beyond the student's control, the University communicated with students clearly and consistently throughout the process, making students aware of any changes and how they might affect them?

13. Changes to this policy

The University will review this Policy annually alongside the student protection plan.

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