Student Protection Plan
Introduction to Student Protection Plans
A Student Protection Plan is a document which aims to ensure that students can continue and complete their studies, or can be compensated if this is not possible.
It sets out what students can expect to happen should a course, campus, or institution close.
All registered higher education providers must have a Student Protection Plan in place, which has been approved by the Office for Students (OfS).
Our Student Protection Plan provides an assessment of the risks to the continuation of your studies at Imperial.
We have also outlined the protections we have in place for you as an Imperial student in the event that a risk to the continuation of your studies arises.
The measures contained in this plan are not intended to replace the protections which you are guaranteed under consumer protection law. Instead, they are in addition to these rights and protections.
1. Assessment of risks to the continuation of your studies at Imperial
This section outlines an assessment of the risks that may trigger our Student Protection Plan.
1.1 Closure of the College
The risk that the College as a whole is unable to operate is very low.
This is because our financial performance is one of the most robust in the higher education sector:
- Our surplus before investment gains last year (2016–17) was £82 million.
- The cash generated from operations in 2016–17 was £111 million.
- Our average cash from operations over the last five years has been in excess of £100 million.
- Our final financial risk rating from HEFCE was ‘low risk’.
1.2 Discontinuation of an undergraduate programme
The risk that we will be unable to deliver any undergraduate programme in the next four years is low.
Our undergraduate programmes are broad based:
- Life Sciences
- Engineering disciplines
We have a broad base of expertise in these areas and significant numbers of full-time permanent academic staff who are able to contribute to the delivery of these programmes.
1.3 Discontinuation of an element of an undergraduate programme
The risk that we will be unable to deliver individual elements of any undergraduate programme is low. This applies to:
- year one and two modules within three-year programmes
- year one to three modules within four-year programmes
- all years of the six-year Medicine programme
This is because there are several members of full-time permanent academic staff who are able to deliver each of these modules.
Final-year modules and research projects
Final-year modules and research projects, particularly in four-year degrees, reflect the research expertise of our academic staff.
They are always subject to minor amendments depending on research developments in the discipline and the availability of individual members of staff.
However, the number of full-time permanent academic staff in each of our departments means that the risk that we will be unable to deliver an appropriate mix of modules and projects representing the state-of the art in current knowledge is low.
1.4 Discontinuation of a postgraduate taught programme
The risk that we will be unable to deliver taught postgraduate programmes is low.
Taught postgraduate programmes are more specialised, and rely on a narrower range of academic staff than undergraduate programmes. However, our programmes are all in areas where we have sufficient critical mass to continue provision in all but the most unexpected circumstances.
Whilst we open and close taught postgraduate programmes more frequently than undergraduate programmes, we do this in a managed way.
1.5 Discontinuation of a postgraduate research programme
The risk that we will be unable to deliver postgraduate research programmes is moderate.
Such programmes typically relate to the expertise of one individual academic. In the event of that individual not being available, we will make bespoke arrangements for any research students who they are supervising (see section 3).
2. Protection measures for Imperial students
This section outlines the student protection measures that we will put in place to protect the continuation of your studies at the College in response to a risk being triggered.
As outlined above, the risk of this happening to undergraduate and postgraduate taught students is low so the following measures apply in the event that we are unable to continue to deliver a postgraduate research (PhD) programme, normally where a member of academic staff moves to a different institution, retires, or deceases:
2.1 Permit and facilitate transfer to a new institution
If your supervisor moves to a different institution in the UK, we will permit and support your transfer to the new institution, if you wish to move with your supervisor.
Given the high cost of living in London, this is likely to be financially neutral or positive for you.
2.2 Find the most suitable alternative supervisor in the College
If your supervisor leaves and you do not wish to move with them to the new institution, for example because you wish to gain an Imperial degree, we will work closely with you to find the most suitable alternative supervisor in the College.
It is our policy that all postgraduate research students have a second supervisor – your second supervisor will normally be best placed to take over as main supervisor.
Your original supervisor may also continue to take a role in your supervision despite the fact that they have left the College.
2.3 Identify a suitable supervisor from elsewhere at the College’s cost
If your supervisor moves away from the UK, we will work closely with you to find the most suitable alternative supervisor in the College.
It is likely your original supervisor will continue to play a role in supervision on a remote basis.
Where this is not possible, and your second supervisor is not able to supervise the project without additional specialist input, we will identify a suitable individual from elsewhere in the UK to provide additional supervision, at the College’s cost.
Similar measures will also apply if your supervisor is unexpectedly and permanently unavailable (e.g. because of severe ill health or death).
2.4 Fund an additional year of study or provide a fee refund
In the extremely rare event where it is not possible to provide a suitable alternative supervisor:
- If you are in the first year of your research programme, you may be required to amend your research project – the College will provide funding for an additional year of study to facilitate this (remission of fees and living costs at the level published by the College in its prospectus).
- If you are in the second or third year, you will be eligible for an award at a lower level. Where this is not appropriate, you will be eligible for a refund of your fees (see section 3 for details).
3. Refunds and compensation
This section sets out our policy on refunding tuition fees and other relevant costs.
It also sets out our commitment to providing compensation in the event that we are no longer able to preserve the continuation of your studies at the College.
Please see our Tuition Fee Policies 2019-20 [PDF]. This policy covers continuity of study as follows:
In the event that the College is no longer able to provide your programme of study, you or your sponsor (depending on who pays your fees) will be entitled to the refund of your tuition fees for the whole programme.
This is likely to apply only in the most unusual circumstances, e.g. where a PhD supervisor in a highly specialised area dies, or where a student on a discontinued MSc course has fallen so far behind their cohort that it is not possible to preserve the programme for them.
Financial situation of the College
In the event that the College needs to issue refund compensation it is likely to be able to do so without significant financial risk.
Our level of cash and cash equivalents at the end of the last financial year (2016-17) was £345 million.
The lowest year-end balance in the previous five years has been £193 million. This is the point of the year when our cash balances are at their lowest, before tuition fee income for the new academic year is received.
Our Treasury Policy requires us to keep a minimum of 50 days’ liquidity; this is currently equivalent to £125 million.
Actual liquidity days have been far in excess of this in recent years (reported as 139 at the end of last year [2016-17]).
With total tuition fees of £233 million in 2016–17, even if the College was to approach the policy limit for liquidity days we would still have ample funding to meet any possible payment related to discontinuity of studies and do not feel insurance for this is required.
4. Communicating with our students
4.1 Communicating the plan to our students
We link to this Terms and conditions section of our website, where our Student Protection Plan is published, from all of our undergraduate and postgraduate course pages within the Study website.
We will publish the link to the plan in the printed undergraduate prospectus and printed postgraduate course guides.
We will send our Student Protection Plan to the course leaders of all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and to all research supervisors.
We will also include our Student Protection Plan in the documentation that we provide to staff proposing new courses and amendments to courses.
4.2 Student consultation on the plan
We will include our students in the future development of our Student Protection Plan.
We will do this through Imperial College Union representation on a new Working Group that is being established to take forward the development of our consumer protection arrangements.
4.3 Notifying our students if the plan is triggered
In the event that our student protection plan needs to be implemented, we will write to affected students within 10 working days of our becoming aware of the need to implement the plan (e.g. the formal resignation of a research supervisor).
This communication will normally be to initiate discussion on the best possible outcome for students on an individual basis.
In the unlikely event of our being unable to preserve continuity of study for a whole cohort, the communication will set out our proposed approach for agreeing a solution, normally in conjunction with the student representatives for the Department concerned.
In the event that we need to make material changes to an undergraduate or taught postgraduate course, we will write to students within 10 working days of the decision to make material changes.
Except in the most exceptional circumstances, such changes will have already been discussed through our normal mechanisms for liaison with students at course and departmental level.