Reimburse University Students: Our Futures Are Not Expendable

Reimburse University Students: Our Futures Are Not Expendable

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A Campbell started this petition to Department of Education and

Throughout Covid-19, the livelihood of students has been treated as expendable. Students have been neglected en masse; our course content has changed monumentally. The government has told us to retrain, we have been blamed for spreading the virus, and been isolated in our accommodation. Our voices, concerns and in some cases, our dreams of a future we have been passionate about have all been extinguished. All the while, we continue to pay £9250 per year, a dept that will shadow our lives. For international students, this is up to £61,000 per year for medical schools. The government needs to refund home and International students in proportion to the cost of the time lost, the decrease in quality of teaching and the lack of access to essential equipment and facilities. Some international students have travelled across the world to partake on a university course of a high standard. In contrast, now, they are stuck paying rent in a country they cannot travel to, with courses unsuitable for their time zone. We all deserve better than this. 

The only satisfactory ‘one size fits all’ action is to reimburse students for the amount of time university has been closed, or offer a credit value, that will allow us to re-enrol or partake on equivalent educational programmes that ensure our educational needs are met to the fullest. This also prevents the UK’s highly regarded universities reputations from being degraded further. Another option would be to allow us to extend our courses for another year to have a full year of non-disrupted education. This should include us receiving both tuition and maintenance fees, without affecting the 4th year of student finance available.

We now collectively demand that the government takes action promptly. Multiple petitions have already demanded compensation for the degradation of the service and contractual agreement we are paying for. Despite this, the government deflected responsibility by saying universities have autonomy. Yet, the financial implications of this crisis on universities override this autonomy and require immediate financial support from the government, so universities have the power to reimburse this irreplaceable aspect of the British economy, of which the government should be proud to support, rather than leaving in the dark. Please refer to this article, 'Achieving stability in the higher education sector following COVID-19' (Universities UK, 2020) to see the benefits universities uphold within the UK economy.  The government has taken a few of the steps delineated in the article to support universities.

To elaborate on the government’s response from previous petitions, 'The Government will continue to work closely with the QAA to ensure students continue to leave HE with qualifications that have real value, reflect their hard work and allow people to progress.' (Government Response, 2020). The multitude of surveys and campaigns from students have deemed the government's claims unsubstantial and show that students are failing to progress, and the qualification value has diminished. To see survey results containing information regarding student satisfaction, please view this survey from the National Union of Students examining students’ mental health during the pandemic. Over half have said their mental health has declined (National Union of Students, 2020).

Furthermore, a survey created student organisation Pause or Pay, with 774 responses across two weeks from students in art schools, one of the most severely affected university industries. This is due to specialist equipment being the most prominent reason for students to partake on the course and is an indisputable aspect of the course's expected education that will enable students to be employed and gain any sufficient skill in the industry. Support from experienced technicians is also an equally significant expectation of the courses, entirely lost during the pandemic. The survey results were in response to the lost time in the academic year of 2019/2020, of which the results were ignored. For the lockdown to have continued again, all of these implications continue, resulting in further time lost from the courses, nearly approaching 50% of the entire degree. The results from this survey state:


96.3% did not consider online learning to be an option when they enrolled on the course
Over half of the students rated online seminars, lectures and tutorials to be poor or terrible – may emphasis be placed on this statistic, due to this being the only viable service offered to replace the use of studios and specialist equipment and technicians
The vast majority had difficulty accessing these online services, whilst 10% had no online substitutes for the lost course content
87.5% rated a refund for studio-based learners to be an important government action
60% voted in favour of a refund of up to 60% of the year's fees. 15% expect a full refund for the year
65.1% indicated that visa extensions for International & EU students are in their top 3 priority actions expected of the government
93% struggled to build supportive friendships with people on their course
96.7% have had no communication regarding compensation regarding fees and financial issues

These are a few excerpts from the survey. Please refer to the rest of the survey results through the Pause or Pay website. This illustrates how student satisfaction is next to none. There are inadequate provisions put in place to either compromise the students for the massive losses underway, or ensure universities can listen to the needs of their students. Therefore, us students collectively believe that the government needs to take action through financial reimbursements that will aid the universities to be able to satisfy the mass need for financial support, to make up for the failure of the service that we paid for and were described. These are retrospective studies that do not account for the most recent lockdown announcement, which aggravates and deepens students' damage. 


We have been resilient and compliant, the hardship funds have been appreciated, but hardship funds are not a one size fits all response to these issues. We recognise that there are students who are disproportionately affected who need the hardship fund. However, this is an issue we are all facing together, and we all deserve our requests for additional compensation to be acknowledged, responded to and implemented.

Government Response, 2020. Require universities to partially refund tuition fees for 20/21 due to Covid-19. [Online]
Available at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/324762

National Union of Students, 2020. Over half of students’ mental health is worse than before the pandemic. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nus.org.uk/articles/over-half-of-students-mental-health-is-worse-than-before-the-pandemic

Pay, P. o., n.d. Survey Results. [Online]
Available at: https://www.pauseorpayuk.org

Universities UK, 2020. Achieving stability in the higher education sector following COVID-19. [Online]
Available at: https://universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Documents/uuk_achieving-stability-higher-education-april-2020.pdf

 

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