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Former education minister Alan Tudge proposes partial refunds for poor university experiences

Australian university students would be offered partial refunds for “poor” learning experiences under a proposal by former education minister Alan Tudge.

Now opposition education spokesman, Mr Tudge said he regularly heard from parents and students who claimed they had been delivered something “very different” to the on-campus experience they were promised.

“And in that instance, they are simply not getting what they were sold,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“Consequently, I believe that universities should be providing some sort of fee compensation in relation to that.”

Mr Tudge said university lectures should have returned to the way they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The last couple of years with the pandemic, there were restrictions in place which meant that you couldn’t have your full on-campus experience,” he said.

“But today, you can go to the Opera House, it will be full. You can go to the MCG, it will be full. There’s no reason at all that lectures can’t be back as normal and as promised.”

ALAN TUDGE PRESSER
Camera IconFormer education minister Alan Tudge says universities need to deliver what they promise to students. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Tudge said there wasn’t clear data available to determine the extent of the problem.

But he said the fact that some lecturers were not delivering the courses they had promised their students was playing into poor quality outcomes.

“It’s like, if you went and paid for a Mercedes Benz, and a couple of months later you came to pick up your car and you’ve got a three year old Corolla, you’d be pretty unhappy,” he said.

Last year’s experience survey from the government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) monitor showed student ratings of the quality of their entire educational experience among undergraduates fell sharply from 78 per cent in 2019 to 69 per cent in 2020.

Education Minister Jason Clare said the 2021 survey, released on Wednesday, showed the overall satisfaction rate had increased to 73 per cent.

JASON CLARE PRESSER
Camera IconEducation Minister Jason Clare says the Universities Accord will examine the effects of the pandemic on students’ experiences. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

The surveys are released annually and assess the overall learning experience, student engagement and resources available to students across 139 universities and other higher education providers.

“The worst of Covid-19 is hopefully behind us, but its impact on students is still here and you can see it in the data,” Mr Clare said in a statement.

“Students’ lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. One day they were in the classroom with friends, the next they were in their bedroom on Zoom.”

Mr Clare said the Universities Accord, a partnership between universities, staff, business, unions and students, would examine how the pandemic has “changed the way we study and work and what that means for our universities”.

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