Leader: Unsatisfied students have no right to refund

February 21, 2003

Students who pay the full cost of their education - even on credit - may think they have the same right to complain about the service as anyone else spending money. And their inclination to expect proper service will increase as fees rise.

Studying for a degree is a life-changing opportunity, and it is right that universities should make it as positive as they can. But it does not do students any favours for Sir Geoffrey Holland to suggest that they deserve a refund if their experience fails to live up to expectations. A customer in a shop can complain if goods are not satisfactory. But students become partners in an experience in which they are full participants and where - one hopes - no cheque will buy a degree unless the exams have been passed.

Students go to university in part to learn to think for themselves and to gain intellectual self-confidence. Telling them that they can get their money back if it goes wrong sends the message that they are there, instead, as passive recipients of a product. It would be more honest to say that going to university is a right for all those who can gain from the experience but that making the most of it is as much their responsibility as the university's.

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