Students studying in the United Kingdom will receive credit for courses missed due to teacher strikes but will not be reimbursed, Penn Abroad announced Monday.
From Feb. 22 to late March, professors at 64 universities in the U.K. went on strikes to protest imminent changes to their pension program. Students, including those from Penn studying abroad, dealt with canceled lectures for up to five weeks. Many students petitioned their universities to reimburse them for missed classes, and some, such as King’s College London, complied to student requests. For a while, Penn students, who pay tuition to Penn, were unsure whether they would be reimbursed or even receive credit for canceled classes.
On Monday, Senior Global Programs Manager Greta Kazenski sent an email to Penn students studying in the U.K. to inform them that Penn Abroad is “striving to ensure” that Penn will give credit to all students who receive credit from their host universities, regardless of class time missed. However, she added that requests for pass/fail credit will not be considered and that Penn will not be providing tuition reimbursement to students who receive credit.
Penn Abroad Director Nigel Cossar said that he felt confident in the decision to grant credit because it was in line with other United States universities and because the affected universities informed him that the missed material would not be covered on exams.
Cossar said that of the 76 Penn students studying at affected universities, half were impacted in some way or another by the strikes. Most students only missed one or two classes for a couple weeks, but seven or eight students faced more severe disruptions.
Because they are receiving Penn credit, Cossar said that students would not receive reimbursement. Yet some students say the decision should be made more individually, since some claim the work they did abroad would not constitute a full credit.
“If a Penn student receives Penn credit, there will be no reimbursement regardless of what happens with our partner school because we are giving credit,” he said.
Cossar said that Penn Abroad decided to give students credit because “we really want to honor what our partner universities are doing abroad.”
However, Cossar said that if credit is not given, reimbursement will be considered on a case-by-case basis. He said that as of now he is unaware of any U.K. universities which do not plan to grant credit.
Affected students largely say they were disappointed yet unsurprised by Penn's decision not to refund students.
Wharton junior Hannah Liu, who is studying at King’s College London this semester, said that Penn’s decision to give credit to all students is a “sweeping generalization” that might not be right for everyone.
“I feel like I don’t necessarily want credit for some of my classes because I don’t think I did enough work,” she said. For example, one of her history classes only covered half of the planned 300-year period. However, Liu acknowledged that some students may have missed fewer classes than others and that some may need the credits to graduate.
“I feel like Penn should have done it on a case-by-case basis rather than just saying for everyone we’re going to give credit,” she said.
Liu also said that she was disappointed by Penn’s decision not to reimburse for canceled classes, especially given the fact that King’s College will be reimbursing students.
“I’m just wondering since King’s College is giving a reimbursement why Penn is not doing so as well,” Liu said. “It just sort of doesn’t make sense and doesn’t seem fair, since in this situation Penn is more of a middleman.”
“I’m just wondering where is that money going if not to the students,” Liu added.
College junior Max Alper, who is also studying at King’s College, said that he was not surprised by Penn’s decision not to reimburse.
“All in all, I never really thought that Penn would actually reimburse our tuition,” he said, acknowledging that Penn students already pay far more than students at their host universities. “Based on their email it seems that they value a credit as a credit and not necessarily us paying for an amount of education or class time.”
“I am disappointed, but it’s not a surprise to me,” Alper also noted.
Wharton junior Michael Gross, who is studying at the University of Edinburgh, also said that he didn't "really expect to be reimbursed,” especially because only one of his classes was affected. However, he said that “there should be some type of reimbursement” for students who missed a lot of class.
Gross, a former sports writer for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said that he “wasn’t really surprised” by Penn’s decision to grant credit. He added that not granting credit would be “kind of unfair” because students hadn’t known about the strikes before starting the semester.
The University and College Union is considering planning an additional round of strikes to take place during the U.K.’s exam period. A ballot for professors to accept or reject the latest proposed agreement closes on April 13.
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