Following the UK Government’s announcement that we must stay at home to help contain the COVID-19 virus, and if you are worried about the change to teaching online, here are some practical issues to consider.
How to deal with private candidates
Given Ofqual’s request that universities and FE colleges consider applications from private candidates for whom a centre assessment grade is not possible, providers will have to put in place measures to help determine their level of educational attainment. It may be necessary to require private candidates to take examinations in Autumn 2020 or next summer and the delayed start date could be a source of complaint.
Targeted scholarships for international students?
Given the concern that the combination of Brexit and COVID-19 has increasingly deterred international students from applying to study within the UK, institutions may want to consider offering more targeted scholarships aimed at international students. However, the terms of such scholarships will need to be scrutinised carefully for compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
If student caps are to be introduced, institutions may need to think about ways to market their offer more creatively, to draw in new students. Any promises made regarding the services that can be delivered during the COVID-19 outbreak and in the run up to lockdown measures being relaxed, must comply with the consumer protection regime including the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations.
Special arrangements may need to be put in place for students who don’t have access to IT facilities, to enable them to experience remote or online teaching. An enhanced duty of care will be owed to those students with a disability or special educational or additional learning needs.
As the staffing requirements for remote learning may be intense arising from the need for sessions/tutorials within different working hours to accommodate different time zones, many institutions may decide to form a partnership with other providers abroad. The extent of each party’s contractual obligations and how to exit the partnership, perhaps on short notice, should be fully documented in a binding contract.
Check contract terms for a force majeure clause which alter parties’ obligations and/or liabilities under a contract, when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond their control occurs. Consider if such clauses cover the current pandemic.
Alternatively, consider the possibility of ending a contract on the grounds of frustration if it has become physically or commercially impossible for your institution to carry out its contractual obligations.
Students who have returned home are likely to be dissatisfied if they are charged rent for the period that their halls of residence may be closed. This will require institutions to carefully check the terms of the tenancy agreement to determine if fees are still payable, nevertheless.
Business Interruption policies
Before deciding on whether to make a claim on any Business Interruption policy in place, it would be worthwhile institutions documenting any steps they are taking to mitigate the risks it is facing. Our further in-depth discussion on Business Interruption is available here.
Many students may have applied to carry out volunteer work to help the NHS. Although certain volunteer roles will be carried out remotely, for roles involving face to face contact, such as patient transport or childcare, volunteers will need to be DBS checked. Applications for DBS checks can still be made online, although DBS contact centres are currently closed.
How we can help
Our dedicated education team can guide you through these issues, to help you work out the best way to respond practically. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch.