A Chinese student signed up to a course and completed pre-enrolment checks and assessments. She withdrew from the course in the first 10 days however. There was a difference of opinion between the student and private training establishment (PTE) as to why she withdrew; the student said that it was a personal matter connected with COVID-19 (without providing evidence), with the provider saying that she had enrolled in another course, and the course in question was a backup option.

The student denied that there was a contract in place between her and the provider. The provider said that there was and that their refund clause allowed them to keep up to 25% of the course fees to cover actual and reasonable costs associated with the enrollment and withdrawal.

How we helped
iStudent Complaint's Resolution Coordinator contacted the involved parties and collated a large amount of relevant information from the student and the PTE regarding the ongoing dispute. The Resolution Coordinator ensured that the internal complaint processes of the PTE had been exhausted and provided a forum for negotiation, in which the PTE revised their retained fee to and provided a breakdown of these costs. The provider calculated their actual costs amounted to just over 16% of the total course fees and proposed refunding the balance (approximately 84%). Their claimed costs included the course position being held open for the student (and therefore not available to another student) as well as administrative and marketing costs.

iStudent Complaint's Resolution Practitioner attempted facilitation, but it became clear quickly that the matter would need to proceed to adjudication. She took submissions from the parties and drafted the proposed then final decision.

The adjudicator found that there was a valid contract in place, based on the documentation and actions of the parties. The adjudicator found that an agreement which clearly set out the terms of the contract had been provided to the student and, that the student by signing the agreement as well as taking steps in the enrolment process showed intentions to be enrolled as a student. The adjudicator determined that the student accepted the contract by paying tuition fees. The parties clearly intended for there to be obligations on both sides which they were expected to keep. The adjudicator also found that the application of the refund clause was reasonable. The out-of-pocket charges were also deemed to be reasonable, particularly in the circumstances where the private institute had held a position open for the student.