Written by Ed Morrison
Last week, in response to a question about tuition fee refunds from a red-faced Piers Morgan, the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, exclaimed:
“We set the maximum level of tuition fees and it is up to universities to then decide what they are going to charge.”
Donelan’s OIA level advice rejects any proposal for the government to pay students compensation for their undervalued tuition and is a bitter pill to swallow for those, like myself, who felt reinvigorated and hopeful that change was on the horizon, especially after a government petition for reduced tuition fees received over 550,000 signatures.
In light of this, it is perhaps unsurprising that this latest government advice has fallen on deaf ears among students, who feel sick and tired at the treatment they have received this academic year.
These views are expressed in a new poll by the University of Leicester Students’ Union as part of a new ‘Tuition Fees Campaign.’ Organised by the SU President, Mia Nembhard, she hopes it will “help get as many students [as possible] to feel as though they are being heard in their advocating for student rights this year.”
The poll showed that, out of a possible 1,481 student responses, 94% of them said the University experience didn’t represent good value for money. Moreover, almost all respondents felt they deserved some form of tuition fee refunds for this year.
These views are shared by Emily Hood (3rd year, History and American Studies), who, when asked about tuition fees, stated:
“I definitely believe we are entitled to tuition fee compensation. We have not gained information and an education that is worth £9000 this year! Sitting on my computer all day, being kept away from university resources is not equivalent to the £9k I’m paying!’’
Hardship funds are available, but they require 12 pages worth of financial information from students, making the entire process excessively difficult and arduous, and with no guarantee of receiving compensation at the end of it.
This was explained by Emily: “The University repeatedly tells us about a hardship fund that we can apply for, but the majority of people will probably not be able to get any money from this anyway’’.
While it is true that the University has adapted its teaching methods in light of the pandemic, through its Ignite programme of blended teaching with online learning, only 16% of those asked in the recent survey believed that it was delivering on the advertised promises.
Incidentally, this frustration with having to pay for an overpriced education, was also expressed by Mia. The SU President explained that although students can complain to the university about their individual cases, the breadth of this issue affects every student and should be treated accordingly.
She emphasised that: “discussions around tuition fees are nothing new and it is disappointing that students are now having to fight for an education that, being in a highly marketized University sector, should be a given right.” Mia added that students are now at a “crisis point” in their education.
In truth, the majority of students are now, more than ever, questioning whether the £9,250 price tag can be justified with the standard of education being offered. What remains to be seen is whether students will receive future compensation for this, or, as one might expect, they are indeed immersed in a crisis point that is too deep to get out of.
Ed Morrison is a final year student and football enthusiast from the University of Leicester. Being a devout Arsenal fan, he is prone to the odd panic attack and regularly throwing things at his TV. Despite living with Fijian tribes and travelling the southern hemisphere, he still struggles to find his house keys on a daily basis. You can find him on Instagram here: @eddymorrison1.