University to assist with “hidden costs”

If University of York tuition fees are put up to £9,000 in 2012, each student could be given a free laptop. Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

If University of York tuition fees are put up to £9,000 in 2012, each student could be given a free laptop. Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Details have recently come to light of the proposed changes to be introduced by the University after the tuition fee increase is implemented.

University officials have revealed that they have been involved in ongoing discussions of ideas and schemes that could be introduced in 2012, when the fees will be set somewhere between £6,000 and £9,000, to ensure students feel they are getting ‘value for money’ out of their University experience.

The focus has been on combating what they termed the “hidden costs” that students face at University, such as books and living expenses.

Ideas that have been suggested varied from making all printing on campus free, and giving the whole student body complementary gym and York Sport access.

If the University chooses to raise the fees to above £8,000, students could also be given all books required for their course for free and even each be given a laptop free of charge when they begin at York.

“The more we can take out of upfront maintenance costs the better that will be in terms of immediate benefit to students.”
Jane Grenville
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Students

Smaller seminars reminiscent of Oxford and Cambridge, with only two or three students per group, are also among suggestions, and the University has already hired an additional 60 lecturers to increase student-teacher contact time across all courses.

Jane Grenville, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for students, spoke candidly about the discussions, stating that they are “all up in the air at the moment” but that they “want to be absolutely categorical about what you pay for with your fees.”

She continued: “The University is looking to take out some of the huge hidden costs that the University controls, and incorporate them into the fees, so students won’t have to pay them back till they are earning.

“We cannot promise we will cover all things proposed, but the more we can take out of upfront maintenance costs, the better that will be in terms of immediate benefit to students.”

She also stated they were looking into giving incoming first-year students free electronic access to their text books before they arrive at the University.

However, Grenville was keen to stress that nothing will be confirmed until the University are given the full outline of their Higher Education funding and upcoming requirements by the government in March and that all the proposals were being put forward at “an un-priced level”.

Tim Ngwena, YUSU President, stressed the need to remember additional costs to student life unrelated to the University. “It’s vital that whichever proposals the University decide to fully evaluate, they bring about added value to the student experience.

“Hidden course costs are one aspect but the largest costs reside off campus in rents and increases in the cost of living, VAT, fuel and energy prices, all aspects which continue to increase expenditure for students.”

The University also confirmed that the tuition fee would not cover any accommodation costs for the incoming students as it would be “unfeasible.”

Students remain divided over the possibilities within proposals put forward by the University. One first-year student expressed their enthusiasm for the ideas, stating: “I love systems where all the hidden costs are incorporated, it makes life easier and so much more efficient. I think people would get more out of University this way as they wouldn’t be afraid to buy text books etc. It would certainly mean we wouldn’t have to fight over key texts.”

However, first-year Philippa Grafton was opposed to the proposal because students today usually have their own laptops before coming to university and therefore paying the extra £2,000 or £3,000 wouldn’t be worth it.

“To be honest I would rather pay £6000. I can understand the University wanting to incorporate hidden costs into the fee, but I feel lots of people wouldn’t use them enough. Most people have a laptop from sixth form and not everyone wants to go to the gym, that’s an extra. I would rather keep my student debt down and pay for these costs as I go along.”

Ngwena added: “Until the government releases its white paper on fees, it’s difficult to speculate on what’s a better choice.

“However it’s great to see that the University has realised some of the large challenges it faces to addressing student experience, and maintaining York’s current competitive ranking, on a national and increasingly important global market.”

6 comments

  1. 8 Feb ’11 at 4:28 pm

    Justin Stathers

    I agree with Philippa Grafton. If the University can afford to foot the so-called ‘hidden costs’ of attendence, it can afford to charge less for tuition. This reminds me of the mandatory catered accomodation that some students received this year. Regardless of how nice the meals provided by the Uni are, there’s no way they could be cheaper than making an equivalent yourself. Having meals provided completely removes the option to economise. In the same way, a money-conscious student might go jogging instead of using the gym, or might buy second-hand books to save on their course.

    It’s all very well saying that a student who is forced to buy all these optional extras gets ‘value for money’, but who wants value for money on something they never intend to use? The increasingly bizarre and self-contradictory ways that institutions are dealing with the government’s new policy only makes me all the more convinced that the fee hike has less to do with a genuine lack of money and more with the right-wing press’ incessant griping that Universities aren’t elitist enough.

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  2. I reckon that reducing seminar sizes (to under 5, for example) would be the best way of announcing that York really is a top university.

    Nothing else proposed would send out quite the same message to prospective students.

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  3. Definitely see your point Justin, but I do quite like the idea of having fees such as book costs shifted to being paid after graduating.

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  4. does any one else genuinely think that seminar sizes need reducing that much? to be honest i feel that the same (opinionated, often incorrect) people will continue to dominate them anyway so they still feel equally redundant to me. :/

    personally i’d prefer more, varied, contact hours. for example the opportunity to use computer facilities more (especially as i’ve heard a lot of people are being asked if they can use software pertaining to their degrees during year in industry/postgrad job interviews, and have never heard of it let alone used it!). more varied practicals for sciences, better provision of books/equipment for BAs. extending office hours, voluntary (yet lecture-led) revision sessions, more general university services such as that free language thing/essay writing skills/maths skills, more careers stuff, blabhal.

    i honestly don’t understand our fixation upon seminar sizes vs workshops etc! there are so many better & more interesting things to be petitioning for!

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  5. DW

    Reducing seminar sizes to tutorial levels would be the best thing York could possibly do with any money from the fee rises.

    I went to Cambridge before I came to York. I would say, from personal experience, that it is impossible to ‘dominate’ a small group teaching session while positing arguments that your fellow supervisees think ‘incorrect’. You are very quickly corrected! The smaller the group, the more focused the dialectic process, and consequently each participant develops their understanding more quickly.

    Everyone at York either knows, or knows they have been themselves, one of those people who clearly have done no work at all, and sit at the back of the room looking scared/bored. A group of 2-5 means that there is simply no room to hide. This means that everyone actually does their work – it only takes one session where you are repeatedly exposed by your better prepared peers and expert tutor for your work ethic to change for the better.

    It’s a lot more fun, too. A 2 hour seminar can be incredibly dull, as I’m sure any reader would agree. However difficult the topic, a small group supervision is rarely dull, as you are constantly participating, and not simply sitting silently for much of it.

    A broad shift to small group teaching would add to York’s already considerable academic prestige. York would, without doubt, attract even more top quality students than it currently does if it adopted such a system. Surely this is quite a hard proposition to argue against?

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  6. YUSU have shut down all comments on the Nouse website. Please direct all comments and complaints to YUSU President Tim Ngwena at [email protected]

    We apologise for any inconvenience and are working to rectify this as soon as possible.

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