Tuition Fees

University Students Demand Reduction in Tuition Fees Due to Loss of Learning During Lockdowns

A group of 17 university students’ unions have called for a 30% reduction in their tuition fees (worth £2,700) to compensate for the loss of education caused by the Government’s lockdowns. They are willing to accept higher interest rates on their loans in exchange for this discount. The Guardian has the story.

[The group,] led by the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield, [has] written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, to propose that the Government funds a 30% tuition fee rebate for all students this year by increasing interest rates by 3% to 6.2%, meaning it would be repaid only by the highest earning graduates.

The letter stated: “We are asking for immediate financial justice for Covid-affected cohorts of university students. In an ideal world, education should be free; however, in a year when students are calling for compensation on their fees, we have created a fiscally neutral solution to adjust tuition fees, supporting students with a one-off payment.”

The student leaders, who are all from research universities in the Russell Group, based their calculations on modelling from the London Economics consultancy. It suggested that increasing the interest rate on student loans would mean that the £1 billion cost of the 30% rebate would be paid for by high-earning graduates, because loans are written off after 30 years, rather than the taxpayer or graduates on low incomes.

The average male graduate would pay £6,500 more in loan repayments over their lifetime, with the very highest earners paying up to £29,800 more, but female graduates on average salaries could repay the same amount because their lifetime earnings are lower.

The pandemic meant most students were barred from their campuses from the end of the autumn term until May 17th, so they missed out on in-person teaching, access to facilities such as libraries, and social and extracurricular activities. Many were frustrated to find themselves unable to access rooms in halls of residence and flats they had already paid for…

Some students have voiced their anger with universities this year through rent strikes, building occupations and socially-distanced protests…

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear from the start of the pandemic that the quality and quantity should not drop.

“The Office for Students will be monitoring to ensure this is the case, and universities should be open about what students can expect.”

Another letter sent by a group of 19 students’ unions told the competitions watchdog in April that students have been “mis-sold” degrees. They demanded tuition fee refunds. Prior to this, the Government responded to a petition asking for a reduction in fees saying: “[We are] not considering a reduction in maximum fee levels to £3,000.”

The Guardian report is worth reading in full.

Students Appeal to Competition and Markets Authority Over Tuition Fees

Students’ unions have told the competitions watchdog that they have been “mis-sold” degrees as they demand blanket tuition fee refunds. Camilla Turner, the Telegraph‘s Education Correspondent, has the story.

A group of students’ unions have written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), urging it to “take action to uphold students’ rights” over tuition fees and rent payments amid the pandemic.

The open letter, backed by student leaders at 19 universities across the UK, calls on the regulator to help students asking for blanket fee refunds as a result of COVID-19 disruption.

It urges the regulator to “explain to students how they can prove that the ‘quality’ of their course has not met the required standards for full tuition”.

The letter goes on to say: “Nobody understands what the Government means by poor quality courses, and the language seems to blame the academics delivering courses for lost education when it is the unavoidable result of the pandemic and ‘blended learning’ being mis-sold by universities.”

The student representative also asked the CMA to address the “broken” complaints process for students claiming refunds, and help advise students on their ability to withhold fee payments “if they have lost out” due to the pandemic.

The letter, which has been signed by students leaders from Oxford, Cambridge and a number of other Russell Group universities, says: “Students need an external organisation with no vested interest other than upholding students’ rights to step in and give them the power to seek collective fee justice.

The CMA must act now.” The plea came after the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that all remaining students in England will not be allowed to return to in-person lessons on campus until mid-May at the earliest.

Most students in England, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to return to campus as part of the lockdown announced in January.

It is estimated that around half of university students in England are not eligible to return to campus for in-person teaching until May 17th at the earliest.

Worth reading in full.