Hundreds of thousands sign petition calling for tuition fees refund

A petition calling for students to be reimbursed for this year’s tuition fees owing to the strikes and the coronavirus pandemic has been signed by more than 320,000 people.

The petition’s founder Sophie Quinn wrote: “All students should be reimbursed of this years tuition fees as universities are now online only due to COVID-19, with only powerpoints online for learning materials which is not worthy of up to £9,250.”

Since more than 100,000 people have signed the petition parliament will consider the issue for debate.

At UEA some students have called for more clarity on what they are paying for as classes and exams have been moved online. In an open letter to the University third year chemistry student Katie Littler, 21, wrote: “I understand the university have little control over tuition fees. However, there is a question to be asked as to what the tuition fee for the final semester of this academic year is for. Remote teaching (where staff are not on campus)? Examinations (which are taken in our homes, online)? I understand staff are working remotely, but the campus resources such as the library are now closed. Students will not be receiving what their tuition fees usually pay for”.

Miss Littler added: “Where does this money go?”

Face-to-face classes at UEA have been taught online since March 16 and the University has told students not to return for their exams in May and June. After initially cancelling graduation ceremonies for final year students the Vice Chancellor reinstated them owing to an outcry from students.

UEA said it would not offer refunds to students because the University is “striving to provide sufficient support to all students so they can successfully graduate or progress to their next year of study”.

A University spokeswoman said: “The University will not be offering a refund of University fees arising from the move to on-line learning.  We are striving to provide sufficient support to all students so they can successfully graduate or progress to their next year of study.  Each course has different demands and each School will have put in place plans to ensure students are taught, can learn and be assessed in their learning and be able to demonstrate they have met the course’s learning outcomes. We have had to close the library following the Government’s direction to do so and bring in a range of measures in order to support the UK’s response to Covid-19.”

The spokeswoman later added that the point of students going to university is “to learn and graduate with a degree which will help them as individuals and in turn society benefits from the advance of knowledge and understanding.” 

UEA has asked students worried about their financial situation in the wake of coronavirus and a UK-wide lockdown to consider the UEA Hardship Fund, which students can apply to via Student Services.

A spokeswoman for Uea(su) said: “The Students’ Union understand the frustrations this academic year has bought students with strikes and Covid-19, which are resulting in massive changes to teaching and learning. Due to the disruption Covid-19 has caused and continues to cause to both the UEA and sector wide – we believe that the Government should be stepping in to support students by taking action to write off fees for this academic year.

The university are working hard to mitigate the disruption and rearrange learning, teaching, and assessments to ensure that students are able to complete their academic work for this year – something we are working hard with them on and fully support them with. We are also lobbying the university for a ‘no detriment’ statement so that students will be able to progress successfully.

The current crisis will cause hardship for some students, so additional support is available such as university hardship funds, computer facility help and allowing students living on campus to terminate their accommodation contract for the rest of the academic year.”

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Chris Matthews

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May 2022
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