Over 50 LPC students have demanded compensation and refunds from BPP University, claiming that its pandemic response has been "deeply unsatisfactory" and created an environment of "mistrust and anxiety".
In an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, the students said class sizes had swollen from 15 to 70 people, in contravention of the 20-student limit specified in the student handbook. The large online groups included students from other BPP campuses and made it "nearly impossible to maintain the same level of participation", said the authors. BPP staff are understood to have been furloughed, while others were hit with childcare duties.
"It is unfair that the brunt of these unforeseen circumstances should fall on students", said the open letter authors, suggesting that BPP could have hired temporary part-time tutors to plug any gaps.
Online teaching has been plagued with glitches, said the students, citing a three week delay to the trial of an exam invigilation program which then broke down in the assessment.
Issues which were unique to online tests had not been properly anticipated, said the students, such as exams which required students to refer across multiple tabs, which "severely prejudices anyone with a slower internet connection and makes it unnecessarily difficult to keep track of information".
A student who contacted RollOnFriday claimed that one class was taught by a tutor via his iPad while he was on holiday in Berlin. "We had a blank screen for the whole session", they said. "A full day of class was completed in half the bloody time".
"Then on the second batch of classes, we got a small message pinged on Teams chat from this tutor that he was not feeling well and class is cancelled, around 9.34am. That’s it. The issue was that only those already logged on saw this and the majority of the class had no idea what was going on until we had to inform them".
The open letter echoed concerns about communication failures. "Many emails go entirely unacknowledged", said the LPC students. "When they are replied to, they are often replied to too late for any difference to be made".
"We demand a refund and compen-aaargh!"
However, the University’s Student Finance Team "has managed to contact students on a nearly daily basis to remind them about tuition fee due dates", said the students, and had threatened to withhold the results of indebted students.
BPP's attempts to find equitable solutions were also flawed, said the authors. Although it granted all students an extra 40 minutes when they were locked out of two online exams, the measure failed to recognise that some people had only been booted from the system for a few minutes, while others had been excluded for over an hour. And the offer to resit exams in January 2021 meant students might lose out on jobs, said the complainants.
Students studying at the University's Holborn campus in London complained that they were now paying £4,000 more than students at BPP's Leeds and Manchester sites for the same online course. "Given that the remainder of the course will be conducted online, there seems to be no reasonable explanation as to why students are being charged a premium (of £4,400) to attend classes in London", they said.
The most commonly raised issue, stated the open letter, was BPP's refusal to provide hard copy materials. One student told RollOnFriday it meant they would have to print over 1,000 pages at their own cost.
Claiming that the University of Law "has successfully avoided many of the problems" affecting BPP, the students have requested reimbursement for their printing costs, for the cost of their text books still locked up on campus unless they're allowed to retrieve them, and the difference in fees between their campus and the cheapest.
They have also demanded compensation for the increase in class sizes, and for any cancelled classes that were not rescheduled.
In a statement, BPP said, "We cannot comment on individual complaints but confirm that all concerns raised by students are taken seriously and dealt with using the processes stated in our regulations. We understand and are sympathetic to students impacted by the disruption caused by the unprecedented nature of Covid-19. Whilst we have taken many steps to provide opportunities for students to continue to progress, if at all possible, our number one priority has been ensuring the safety of students and colleagues".
BPP and ULaw recently unveiled their plans to reopen.