Students may soon be able to sue their university for not delivering on its promises, based on Universities Minister Jo Johnson’s proposal.

The Proposal

According to University Minister Jo Johnson’s “consumer protection” proposal, students may soon be able to sue their university for not delivering on its academic promises.

The said contract would be listing what students should be expecting from their college experience with regards to contact time, assessments, feedback and the number of lecture and tutorials they will be provided.

In his speech last Thursday, Jo Johnson explained that if a student’s university fails to meet its promises, then legal action could be taken to get some of their tuition fees back.

The government said that it wants to pursue this to protect students who will be “paying what will for many be their third largest lifelong expenditure after home and pension”.

His Speech

Johnson talked about the proposal, saying: “Clearly it is in the nature of a contract that someone who feels that the benefits promised in the contract are not getting delivered would have some form of redress.

“Clearly, through the consultation options that we will be publishing in the course of time, we’ll see what those options will consist of, but legal remedies are certainly not excluded.”

He also called for the end of the “accelerating upward ratchet of vice-chancellor salaries. “Our universities are autonomous and this is a job for them to undertaken in a responsible manner,” he said. “Universities must justify the exceptional circumstances for pay awards that exceed the pay of the prime minister and, where there is no justification, they must exercise greater restraint.”

Comments On the Issue

Gordon Marsden dismissed Johnson’s suggestions on the topic of vice-chancellor salaries as “completely toothless”, saying: “His announcements today are a smokescreen to dodge mounting evidence that the cost of loans is pushing students away from applying to university and forcing more to drop out.”

Andrew Adonis, the former minister of education, who also publically denounced vice-chancellor salaries recently, commented on this, saying: “He says the vice-chancellors’ pay scandal needs to stop, but he is not prepared to stop it. Students expect him to act since the £9,250 fee cartel prevents them exercising any leverage whatever.”

Adonis had said just last week: “The only answer is to introduce a cap on top pay in universities. There should now be a national consultation on the appropriate cap.”

He added: “The student contract appears to be another case of government hot air. They won’t even say what minimum levels of teaching should be. And as the regulators are dominated by the vice-chancellors, nothing will change.”


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