UEA have decided to implement changes to students’ ‘free trial period’ of university in 2018, rather than this year.

Presently, students can experience UEA ‘free’ for five weeks whereafter they are liable for the term’s tuition fees.

Students considering dropping out will soon have only two weeks to decide before being charged 25 percent of the year’s fees.

The university considered applying the new cut-off limit to students starting after 1  August 2017, Concrete understands. The change will come into effect next summer.

A UEA spokesperson said the 2018 implementation was “to ensure that the appropriate notice is provided on the UEA website for prospective students.”

They said: “The change is being made as part of the university’s annual review of fees. The move to a two-week limit matches the date on which a student has to be included on the HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) return and is therefore counted as a student of the university.”

The students’ union criticised the narrowing of this timescale, as students starting after 2018 will only have one full week of teaching before deciding whether or not to pay the termís fees.

When looking at the date of withdrawal, UEA said they will use the last date of attendance in lectures or seminars. If  a student’s last day of attendance was within the first two weeks of term, they would not be charged, irrespective of when their decision to drop-out was finalised.

In the last three years, 109 students decided to withdraw from their course within two weeks. A total of 233 students left university in the first five weeks, according to university data.

The SU said their casework data suggested most students who worry UEA is not right for them decide properly in late October.

The planned timescale of a fortnight is the legal minimum requirement under consumer rights legislation. UEA said they considered other universities’ fee cut-off dates in the decision. Other universities with a two week cut-off limit include Bristol, Leeds, Reading and Portsmouth. Manchester has a one week cut-off date.

The changes will be phased over four years. Students starting before 1 August 2018 will still have until 31 October to withdraw or intercalate before being charged that yearís fees.

Postgraduate Education SU Officer Maddie Colledge welcomed the postponement.

“This would have been terrible news for the hundreds of new students who struggle with university life in the first few weeks”, she said.

Given this is a university without a proper induction week, thereís almost no time to make sure students feel welcomed, comfortable and ready for academic life and no time to properly assess whether dropping out is the right move for them – so this unpleasant decision, carried out without consultation when students are away, could have meant hundreds more students dropping out before giving UEA a chance, or finding themselves with a debt liability because they gave it a few weeks before dropping out.

Ms. Colledge will continue to oppose the plan.

“We’ll now be calling on UEA to reverse this terrible decision before 2018, to properly consult with students on changes like this in the future, and to look seriously at the structure of the academic year so that students get the induction to university life they need and deserve.”