The student experience can be full of ups and downs. However, when you’re struggling with certain challenges, it can be difficult to know what your rights are, both as a consumer at a UK university, and as a resident in the UK.
At a time when coronavirus is causing all sorts of problems in the higher education sector, you may be wondering if you are getting the treatment you deserve. We’ve written a handy guide to help you understand more about the legal rights students in the UK are entitled to.
Whether a domestic or international student in the UK, you pay a lot for your course. As a consumer, you have certain rights, which if you feel aren’t being met, can give you grounds to make a complaint.
Your course should:
Largely meet what was advertised to you. You can’t complain about certain modules being removed as universities often say that course units are subject to change. However, if you feel your overall course has been missold to you, there could be grounds for complaint.
Meet what was promised to you in the course handbook. This is a good place to refer to if you feel you might not be getting what you were promised.
If you are unhappy with the treatment you are receiving, whether that be quality of teaching, course content, or anything else, you have a right to complain. The best place to start the complaints process is most likely through your students’ union, as they’ll have plenty of experience with students in a similar position.
They will be able to advise you and accompany you to any meetings with the university.
Sometimes as a student, you may receive a mark that you strongly disagree with. Understanding your rights around appealing your grades is important.
You have no legal right to question a lecturer’s interpretation of your work, and you will very rarely succeed in challenging a grade for this reason.
However, if you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against, or any mitigating circumstances not taken into consideration, you can appeal your grade.
If you wish to appeal your grade, you should start by checking your university’s appeals procedure. There will usually be a timeframe within which you are allowed to appeal, and some universities will have set forms they expect you to fill out. You’ll likely be asked to submit evidence, such as doctor’s notes or evidence of discrimination. Again, if you are unsure about this, your best port of call is your students’ union.
Once the university has ruled on your case, if you still disagree, you can appeal it up to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). The OIA cannot rule on academic grounds, but can look at your case if you think you have been discriminated against, or there has been an error in calculating your marks. In Scotland, the ombudsman is the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).
Knowing your rights around housing can be one of the most difficult areas for any student to understand. Landlords are known for taking advantage of student tenants and providing poor quality housing, but you do have rights, both as a student and as a tenant.
Some common issues that arise when students are dealing with landlords and letting agencies include:
Registration fees. Agents cannot charge you a registration fee when you’re searching for a house, only once you sign for it.
Deposits. Most landlords will charge a deposit (usually equivalent to one month’s rent), which you are entitled to get back at the end of your tenancy, unless it is being used to cover any costs for damage to the property. However, often students struggle to get their deposit back from their landlords. To prevent any problems, your landlord should put your deposit into a deposit protection scheme, which holds the money and ensures that they do not spend it during the course of your tenancy. If you think your landlord is unreasonably withholding your deposit, you can take them to small claims court.
Harassment. Tenants are protected by law against harassment from landlords. This means that landlords cannot make repeated late night visits, enter the property without 24 hours’ prior notice, change or add to the tenancy agreement, ignore repair work, or treat tenants with aggression.
Students as a group are known for their tendency to hold large, and sometimes dramatic, protests.
Recently, students in the UK have been taking to the (sometimes virtual) streets to protest their treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. If you want to protest for any reason, it’s important that you know your rights.
Your right to freedom of speech and peaceful protest is enshrined in law in the UK. This means you always have the right to protest as long as you are not causing harm or damage to people or property.
However, this is a little more complicated because of coronavirus. Although you do legally have the right to protest, in England it is currently illegal to meet in groups larger than two, which makes large-scale protest a little difficult. So, even though protesting itself isn’t illegal, you could be breaking the law by attending a rally or going on a march.
There are alternatives to in-person protests that can also have a huge impact, so if you wish to protest, you still can! Things you can do instead include:
Making posters and banners to hang from your window.
Creating and signing petitions.
Writing to your MP, university, or whoever you wish to complain to.
Writing blog posts.
Attending virtual marches and meetings.
That way, you can enjoy your right to protest whilst keeping yourself and others safe.