The issue of tuition fees has been ongoing since the beginning of the first lockdown all the way back in March 2020. In fact, the argument over higher education fees has been a prominent problem since the sharp increases in 2010, when university costs jumped from £3,250 a year to a staggering £9,000 a year.
Currently, an English university undergraduate will pay £9,250 each academic year. Of course, as with every walk of life, the pandemic has caused dramatic changes to the way university students are learning.
From entirely online-based learning to blended approaches, the last year has thrown challenges at students and education providers alike.
Most notably, monumental amounts of students campaigning to have reductions to their tuition fees. And in a few, very rare cases, they have been successful. The news was heard that a university had been ordered to pay £5,000 in compensation to a student for lost teaching, by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).
Now, as a university student myself, I cannot help but feel that the efforts being put into this campaign from students and students’ unions, could be directed in a more effective way.
First of all, I would like to stress the point that when people are asking for a refund, this is on money that they quite literally never see, if they have a student loan. The student loan company will pay this directly to their education provider. All this will mean, is that there would be, in the case I have discussed above, £5,000 less to pay off from your student loan.
Before you suddenly jump on that statement and call that a success, if someone completes a three-year undergraduate degree, paying £9,250, their tuition loan will total £27,750. Therefore, with a £5,000 refund, you will be left with £22,750.
It is important to note, if you began your studies after September 2012, you will be paying back 9% of earnings over £2,214 per month. For example, if you were earning £2,400 a month, you would be paying back 9% of £186 – £16 a month.
If your loan is not paid back within 30 years, your loan is written off. Therefore a £5,000 reduction simply will not affect your circumstances when repaying.
Secondly, we need to accept the fact that universities are businesses. They need to make money. By still receiving the full amount, they will be kept open, for future students to be able to train and fill jobs.
By saying all of this, I am not trying to push aside the issues that students are facing. However, it needs to be the responsibility of student unions to apply pressure to education providers to ensure that online teaching is at as strong a standard as possible.
Adequate contact time with lecturers, students with limited technical resources to access online learning need to be supported. These are both issues that need to be addressed. But they will not be resolved with a fee reduction.
Also, in fact, your education experience will not be changed by a reduction. You will end up with the same employability standard, the same level portfolio. The situation we find ourselves in is out of the control of universities.
Make whatever complaints you wish about the government’s handling of the pandemic; however, it is time that students began to accept the situation and do whatever they can to aid their own career prospects following graduation.
For more on the forgotten student’s campaign, take a look at Star McFarlane’s piece via this link: University students campaign for Covid-19 relief funding