As the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions for students have rolled over into 2021, many are asking for tuition fees to be lowered.
During the current national lockdown, the majority of university students are taking their classes online. For many, this arrangement is not worth the current cost of tuition fees.
A January petition for the government to reduce tuition fees from £9,250 to £3,000 has received nearly 570,000 signatures. Because the petition had surpassed 10,000 signatures, the government responded on 26 January, saying: “Tuition fee levels must represent value for money and ensure that universities are properly funded. Government is not considering a reduction in maximum fee levels to £3,000.” Parliament will consider the petition for debate as it has surpassed 100,000 signatures.
In response to a previous petition for a partial refund of tuition fees, the government said: “Any refund would be a matter for universities, so we are not considering a write-off of tuition fee loans.”
Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan has recently repeated this position, saying: “Universities are responsible for their own fees but the Government has been VERY clear if universities want to continue charging the full fees, they are expected to maintain the quality, quantity and accessibility of tuition.”
When asked in January about potentially lowering university costs, Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not fully address the issue of tuition fees, instead saying that the government would “have to look at” accommodation fees.
Following student feedback, the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union launched the #EaseTheFees campaign in January.
The campaign states that a decline in learning, research, and employability standards for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic means that tuition fees should be reduced.
“Our belief that students have not been provided adequate educational offerings to justify their tuition fees this year is not a reflection of the hard work of academic and professional services staff at both Falmouth University and the University of Exeter”, said the campaign.
The campaign stated that “we recognise that it is not possible for the universities to refund students’ tuition fees directly, without creating detrimental financial instability for the institutions. Therefore, our campaign is primarily concerned with joining forces with other Students’ Unions nationally, to target the Government, under whom sit Student Finance providers for UK students”, also aiming to question why Falmouth University and the University of Exeter cannot themselves offer refunds for tuition fees.
Students are encouraged to use #9kforwhat (for home undergraduate students) and #EaseTheFees and to show support for lowering tuition fees on social media.