With the turnaround of the academic year here at Falmouth University comes the annual finance booklet, detailing the breakdown of income generated and total expenditure of the university for 2017/18.
The release of the new booklet has come just after the increase of students’ tuition fees, from £9000 to £9250, raising the ever looming question of what is our money actually being spent on?
Now, I won’t bore you with all of the facts and figures, as the task of summarising the document would be no small feat. This could be partly due to the fact that despite the booklet trying to be concise and simple, using colourful graphics and charts, it is still very unclear at points. It leaves a lot down to interpretation, with the use of umbrella terms such as 1% of undergraduate fees being spent on “Welfare – Counselling, living support, chaplaincy, etc.” If other students are as curious as I am, they will be dying for a further information to know exactly where their impending debt is going.
One figure that appears to have created a conflict of interest is that of the bursary funding. According to the booklet, £310 a year from every student goes towards bursaries for other students. This amounts to just under £1000 across the three years spent at university, which has the potential to seem wholly unfair to those who don’t need to claim in the first place. Yes, this is a fairly conservative view. Although, it’s a viewpoint that can be understood even if not agreed with. The knowledge that there is so-called ‘users’ of the system who can be categorised as fraudsters, diminishes the fact that there are students out there who actually depend on these bursaries.
The types of bursaries awarded to students as highlighted by Will Wears, the Student Funding Manager at Woodlane Campus, are mainly categorised as the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), low household income, or the Cornwall award which grants funds to students who lived in Cornwall before joining the university.
This Cornwall award is the main talking point when it comes to unfair bursaries. Determined by post-code, who’s to say that that any one person is entitled to money more than the next person purely based on where they live?
As an example, I am from Surrey. I fall in the lower bracket when it comes to student funding based on where I live and my household income. I am entitled to absolutely no additional funding, despite the fact my loan doesn’t even cover my rent. The way it works assumes too much of people. I am just as broke if not even more broke than the next student, yet the university still goes with the assumption that my parents will be throwing money at me, which is of course not the case at all.
Is it fair that some students will be given upwards of £2000 across the course of their university career, on top of loans, purely for being Cornish?
To gauge more of an understanding on how other students feel about this, I spoke with both Cornish students, and others who, like me, receive no extra funding.
Georgina Clissold, hailing from Redruth and thus deemed eligible for the Cornwall award, described her feelings towards the Cornwall Award. “It definitely helps you with whatever situation you may be in, although I think I would have been fine without it. I don’t think it’s fair that some parts of Cornwall get it while others don’t, even less fair for those outside of Cornwall.”
Despite understanding that the Cornish Award exists because too many Cornish people are leaving the county, Georgina ended with, “It’s definitely a nice bonus, but I didn’t spend it on what it was actually meant for, like a laptop and materials. In most cases I don’t think it actually a necessity.”
On the other side of the spectrum, there are students that receive no support, including Film student Albert O’Rourke.
“I feel a bit betrayed I think, I don’t really feel like students have been made properly aware of where their money goes. I think the idea of a Cornwall Award is a bit unnecessary, because it just means that other students are basically gifting money to them, when a lot of students are struggling themselves financially. Obviously there are exceptions such as the DSA which is utterly deserved.”
The argument seemingly stems from the original procedure for judging someone’s situation, as there are definitely people who find a way around this system. However, Wears described the system as “Very robust. It’s all worked out by Student Finance England, so if it’s good enough for the government, then it’s good enough for us.”
It is clear that I’m not alone in my views. Both Cornish and ‘outsiders’ reinforce the idea that a bursary solely for those from Cornwall is unfair. An issue apparently in need of light. Am I sub-par just because I’m not Cornish?