Your relationship with UEA is governed by a contract and that contract has terms and conditions. You should have a copy of your contract with UEA in the papers that you were given when you started. You can also look here to find a copy of those that apply to you.
These terms and conditions must strike a fair balance between the rights and obligations of the university and you as the student and not give the university too wide discretion to change a course’s cost or content.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruption to your experience as a student. UEA has so far had to make changes to their normal arrangements for teaching, learning and assessment to respond to the disruption and to implement government public health advice and regulations in order to protect the health and safety of students, staff and the public.
However, this does not mean that the University can just make any changes as they like. If the changes proposed go beyond what is required to comply with regulations or what is reasonably required to protect the safety of students and staff, UEA should follow the normal process to introduce changes.
If UEA does try and make any changes to your contractual terms and conditions because they are changing the way that they deliver your course or award your qualification, so in this case, changing the modules that are available to you or that you selected, they should contact you to tell you:
what the changes are, before they take effect
the reasons for the changes
the impact the changes are likely to have
the options available to you if you want to avoid the changes (without you being adversely affected)
Essentially, UEA must communicate with you clearly about any arrangements they are making to change the way your modules are taught, assessed or their availability. This must be in advance, you should be told why and what the effect of the change is likely to be. Crucially, you should be given options to avoid this change in a way that would not detriment you.
The Office for Students (OfS) is the independent regulator of higher education in England and they have produced some guidance on what protections you have as a student around such changes here. Whilst the OfS cannot respond to individual complaints about an institution that they regulate, they can use any information sent to them as part of their regulatory monitoring activity, and keep higher education providers under review to ensure that they comply with the ongoing conditions of registration. This means that if you feel UEA are not upholding their part in the terms and conditions, you can let the OfS know.
If you are unhappy with the changes proposed, and want to raise these specifically and with UEA, another option that you can look at is making an academic complaint regarding the closure of the modules and the alternatives you have been presented with.
This academic complaints process starts informally. If you have not yet done so you should contact the module lead or your course director and raise the issues of the module closure with them. You can do this by email. This will allow you the opportunity to convey your worries, for the school to get an understanding of what students think and feel about the changes and may help you to understand the content of the alternative modules in more detail and allay some of your worries. If you feel you need to, you can escalate this conversation to your head of school. This is all part of the informal stage of an academic complaint and is how the process starts.
If after raising your concerns with your school, you feel that they have not been addressed properly or at all, you can make a formal academic complaint. You can also look here for more information about the complaints process and this is something that the advice team can help you with.
In terms of the content of the academic complaint you will need to:
out what the issue is (so what modules you wanted to study and what you have been presented with instead)
explain how these are not comparable/appropriate alternatives/what you have missed out on learning
explain why you chose UEA to study
explain how the changes have impacted you (maybe a particular career choice required this learning, if you could have studied somewhere else at a lesser cost)
explain the outcome you are looking for
The key in this is the impact. It is not enough to say ‘I have had some modules cancelled therefore I want an appropriate redress’. Instead, you need to talk about how either not receiving the modules you chose or how the alternatives have impacted upon your studies and how this links to the terms and conditions document. For instance, is the cancelled module the whole reason you chose to come to UEA? Could you have studied the newly proposed course somewhere which would have otherwise been cheaper or better – for example if you would have been able to save money by living at home?
More broadly, individual schools are making plans for how they will deliver the teaching and modules that they do have available from September. If you are worried about returning to UEA in September, it is important that you speak to your school and let them know of your concerns so that they can try to address these as soon as possible. There may be scope for the school to make personal arrangements for you to continue your course without having to attend campus, if that is a concern for you for instance.