University of Manchester Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell in meeting with students

University of Manchester tells students “contract is to deliver a degree” – not an education

In an open meeting this afternoon, a University of Manchester (UoM) Vice-President, Professor Clive Agnew, told stunned students that the University is obligated to provide them “with a degree,” rather than a complete education.

Students were fielding questions to a panel comprised of UoM Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell, alongside Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Luke Georghiou, and Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students, Professor Clive Agnew.
(pictured from right to left above)

When asked by a student about the University’s perceived failure to deliver a satisfactory education, Professor Agnew stated: “We have taken advice on this and the contract is to deliver a degree, that is the focus.”

A further shout of “Not an education?” was ignored, as the panel hurridly attempted to shift focus.


Independent Adjudicator Strike Compensation

Independent Adjudicator confirms students set for strike compensation

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education have issued a briefing note, in which they encourage students to make formal complaints in order to secure compensation for disruption caused by the recent UCU strikes.

The impact of the strike action has varied by course and university. Whilst some students have missed only one or two scheduled sessions, others have had this semester entirely disrupted.

However, you should be eligible for some compensation even if you were not significantly affected. See below for how to start this process.

The Independent Adjudicator have detailed some of the factors they will consider when awarding compensation, including “the potential difference in value of final year teaching compared to first year teaching.”


The University of Manchester lies to its students

The breifing note issued is in stark contrast to a statement offered by University of Manchester (UoM) spokesperson Michael Greenhalgh before the Easter break, in which the university played dumb about their obligations regarding compensation.

Michael told students in March it would be “virtually impossible” to calculate compensation for missed teaching. However, the Independent Adjudicator awards compensation from universities (including UoM!) to thousands of students each year, and confirm in their briefing note that many of these are about teaching that has not been delivered.


University of Manchester withhold tuition fees

UoM students withhold tuition fees until UCU strike compensation agreed

Students at the University of Manchester have organised a collective non-payment of tuition fees, until an agreement is reached with university management for compensation following the ongoing industrial action by the UCU. Students involved in the movement to withhold tuition fees are also following the university’s formal complaints procedure, allowing compensation claims to be escalated to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator should the complainants remain unsatisfied.

The non-payment action is being organised through Facebook group ‘Last instalment withholding MA,’ with over 100 students currently taking part.

Postgraduates to withhold tuition fees

Postgraduate students pay tuition fees directly from their own bank accounts, and many have now cancelled the direct debit authorisation allowing the university to take the final instalment due in May. Students are set to withhold tuition fees payments of over £3,000, with the University of Manchester charging some of the highest fees for Masters courses in the UK.

The vast majority of the students affected fully support the plight of striking staff, placing the blame for the disruption with university management and Universities UK, responsible for the disputed USS pension scheme changes being challenged by the UCU. Likewise, lecturers are generally supportive of student action, with some reportedly encouraging their students to withhold tuition fees.

Cancelling the University’s direct debit authorisation can be done in seconds using online banking. This is touted as a relatively risk-free method of applying pressure on the university management, as it merely revokes the university’s ability to take money directly from students’ bank accounts. A late payment fee of £25 is not charged until the tuition fees become overdue in two months time, and is proportionally insignificant for those intending to withhold tuition fees of over £3,000.

Whilst UoM can prevent students from graduation until any tuition fees are paid, it is widely hoped the issue will be resolved long before Masters students are due to graduate this December.

Those students that intend to withhold tuition fees are asked to add their name here, allowing the scale of this collective action to be tracked.

Many students on Masters courses have suffered severe disruption to their second and final taught semester, with minimal, if any, timetabled sessions being held over four weeks. The remaining two weeks of teaching, following the three week Easter break, could also face disruption as UCU prepare up to another 19 days of strike action over April and May. Students have complained of being left with no communication from academics, including their dissertation supervisors, with union members continuing industrial action strictly ‘working-to-contract’ in addition to annual leave over Easter.


UCU Strike Compensation: Empty Pockets Sign

Postgraduates: withhold tuition fee payments & follow official complaint procedures

Full time masters students have missed a significant amount of our degree courses due to the four weeks of UCU strike action. Depending how weekly timetables aligned with strike action, some students have missed almost the entirety of four weeks taught sessions. Most modules have covered only the first introductory weeks, and are now left with only a couple of sessions post-strike. Continued ‘work-to-rule’ action understandably carried out by UCU is compounding this impact, as is the decision taken in some modules to resume teaching as scheduled with no consideration to missed content. This has decimated the learning experience of Semester 2, and whilst I hope the effect on academic progression will be minimised, the detriment to our overall experience at masters level has been substantial.

In this post I will set out two actions that should have an impact; cancelling direct debits for tuition fee payments, and following your university’s formal complaint procedures. I fully support the staff that are striking, and applying this pressure to the university management surely supports their cause. I know many lecturers have encouraged students to complain to university management since the strikes began, so even if you can’t be bothered cancelling your direct debit or even making an official complaint, please support the staff that work to support you by emailing that address and making your feelings known.

University of Manchester students: This is an improved version of a post I made in the excellent ‘Take Action! UoM‘ Facebook group this morning. They have loads of great material, including templates to apply for mitigating circumstances for this semester’s assigned work. They are holding a meeting this Thursday at 6pm, Squirrels Bar, Owen’s Park Campus, Fallowfield. There is also a dedicated group for those intending to withhold their final instalment that has been started today, who have been kind enough to add me as a group admin.

Whilst undergraduates cannot withhold tuition fee payments made directly to the university from student finance, they can still take advantage of the official complaints procedure, so please encourage any undergraduate housemates etc to do so. I intend to write a follow up post aimed at undergraduates soon.

Withholding tuition fee payments until UCU strike compensation is agreed

As postgraduates, we are in a stronger position than most students as we pay our tuition fees directly. We can both withhold the final tuition fee instalment until an agreement is reached, and pursue formal complaints, with the option to refer each individual complaint to the Ombudsman service should your university not resolve the matter to your satisfaction. Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has repeated yesterday he expects all universities to compensate students, but Manchester are among the majority, as yet, refusing to entertain the idea of compensation.