Discontent rises among UK university students


Student led group 'Refund Us Now' is demanding 15 per cent tuition fee refund

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Image by Manfred Werner

By Emily Hewat

With discontent rising among university students over the cost of tuition fees for this academic year, a group of students have formed ‘Refund Us Now’, which aims to recover 15 per cent of student’s tuition fees for this year.

The group has chosen a 15 per cent reduction as their amount as it is widely believed that online learning is 15 per cent less effective than face to face teaching and therefore tuition fees should be reduced accordingly.

‘Refund Us Now’ is a student- led group that was founded by Glasgow student James Yucel in response to the poor treatment students are facing this academic year. Glasgow University has already been forced to refund a month’s rent to students in halls of residence who have been told they cannot visit their families or visit pubs and restaurants, as well as £50 food parcels for those isolating.

In the Daily Express, Refund Us Now have stated that “our aim is to secure 15 per cent cash refunds for every single student who has been lied to, manipulated and now subjected to overly reactive and draconian measures at the hands of their universities and governments.”

“We were promised 'blended learning' and a safe return to university life. We have been cheated with pre-recorded lectures and locked in our rooms without the ability nor freedom to see our loved ones.”

This is not the first attempt by students to secure refunds for the disruption caused by Covid-19 and last year’s lecturer strikes. Over 203 000 people have signed a petition to require universities to partially refund tuition fees for this academic year with the argument that the UK government should care that thousands of students will go into debt for an education they will not receive. The Government response has been the same to all petitions with this aim in mind: that universities must deliver high quality courses and that if students are unhappy, they should first complain to their provider or the Office of Independent Adjudicator. The Government is not considering a write-off of tuition fee loans.

The Office for Students has already warned universities against a blanket refusal of partial refunds of tuition fees. Universities must look at each application on a case by case basis.

As well as groups such as ‘Refund Us Now’, students have been expressing their anger online and there is growing concern among students on social media that universities offered blended learning to ensure first years would enter accommodation rent contracts only to have their teaching moved online once cases began to rise.

Universities such as the University of Aberystwyth and Liverpool Hope University have already moved teaching online and staff at Birmingham University have asked for in-person classes to be scrapped.

According to ‘The Student Room’, the UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, has said that “Students should be allowed to return to their family homes to study online without having to pay to leave their accommodation contracts.”

These past few weeks have seen students at several universities feeling ignored and isolated and calls for tuition fee refunds are only likely to increase in the coming year.