They advised The Independent they felt on-line studying was not the identical as face-to-face instructing, whereas campus amenities and assets have been tougher to entry attributable to coronavirus.
Parliament mentioned tuition charges on Monday, after a petition calling for partial refunds attributable to coronavirus was signed by greater than 200,000 individuals. “Students should not have to pay full tuition fees for online lectures, without experiencing university life,” the petition mentioned.
Students advised The Independent they felt it might be honest to scale back how a lot they paid this 12 months, as campus and programs tailored to take care of the pandemic, and agreed with an MP’s evaluation they’d been “mistreated” this 12 months.
“The online learning service is nothing like the experience one gets in person,” Barnaby Fournier, a first-year on the University of Manchester, mentioned.
“Services like the library which come out of tuition fees have reduced spaces and hours,” he added. “Our fees should be reduced to at least the Open University fee level – around the £6,000 mark [per year] – since we are essentially getting the same service as them.” Annual tuition charges at Manchester are £9,250.
The essential library has been “operating a planned reopening schedule that already provides the largest number of bookable study spaces in the sector”, based on a college spokesperson.
While many college students have had a mixture of on-line and face-to-face instructing this time period, some have seen extra lessons pushed on-line throughout time period as universities together with Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester reacted to native coronavirus charges.
In response to the petition on tuition payment refunds, the federal government mentioned: “Higher education providers must deliver high-quality courses.
“If students are unhappy, they should first complain to their provider, or the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.”
One student at the University of Cambridge, who did not want to be named, said she felt all students should have refunds for this term.
“I’m lucky I have a few in-person things but most people are paying all this money, being miserable and sat staring at a computer screen all day,” she told The Independent.
Isabelle Barnes, another student at the University of Manchester, said she thought a partial tuition refund would be fair, saying there was reduced access to resources and study spaces due to coronavirus, as well as issues with online learning.
“Staff have done their very best to deliver us the same quality of teaching, but it is just not possible with poor connections, technology glitches, and the inability to properly communicate as we would normally face-to-face,” she told The Independent.
“I think if there isn’t at least a partial refund, that isn’t fair on students,” Anvee Bhutani, a scholar on the University of Oxford, additionally advised The Independent.
Jo Grady from the University and College Union (UCU) told The Independent: “We stand in solidarity with students, who are forced to see themselves as consumers – and are not getting what they thought they were paying for.”
She added: “You cannot simply cut off funding for universities during a pandemic so any reduction in tuition fees or refunds would need to be made up by the government.”
The universities minister said they were “prioritising students’ education” by keeping universities open – including campus facilities such as libraries – during lockdown, while pubs, restaurants and gyms have been ordered to shut.
During the debate on tuition fees on Monday, Labour MP Chris Evans criticised the government for having “greatly mistreated” students this term.
“Blame for the rise in Covid cases, locked in accommodation in new cities with no support network, and not receiving the teaching they have paid for,” he said. “The government’s lack of engagement with these issues is severely damaging.”
The University of Cambridge student, who asked to remain anonymous, said she “100 per cent” felt mistreated by the government. “They need to stop demonising young people for socialising,” she said.
“The workload is hard to cope with all these other things to think about. It’s no fun and miserable,” she told The Independent. “For a lot of us, this comes after being absolutely shafted with the A-level results and then we get blamed for the spread of coronavirus for socialising – which is perfectly natural to want to do.”
Larissa Kennedy from the National Union for Students advised The Independent: “You only have to look around to see that of course students have been mistreated by the government.”
“We’ve been consistently ignored, and when we’re not ignored we’ve been scapegoated as responsible for the second wave,” she added. “It’s no marvel college students are offended: we’re seeing a brand new wave of lease strikes, occupations and motion.”
Mr Fournier – one of many college students on the University of Manchester on lease strike, and who watched a constructing be occupied in protest final week – mentioned he felt college students had been “mistreated”, telling The Independent he found out even more lessons were going online shortly after arriving on campus.
The university said on Tuesday all students in their accomodation will get a two-week reduction in their rent next term.
A university spokesperson said senior staff met with student representatives over the weekend to discuss concerns, and new measures have since been announced including “a reduction in rent, more flexible accommodation contracts, and increased study spaces”.
“We have given a commitment to continue to listen to and engage with student representatives,” the University of Manchester spokesperson added.
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson mentioned:“We understand this has been a very difficult time for students, which is why we have prioritised their education and wellbeing from the start of this pandemic, by supporting universities to provide a blend of online and in-person learning in a Covid-secure way.”
While universities are responsible for what fees they charge, the government has “made clear” they need to keep high quality and tutorial requirements, and the same amount of tuition, in the event that they proceed to cost the utmost quantity allowed, they mentioned.
“They should ensure all students, regardless of their background, have the resources they need to study remotely,” the DfE spokesperson added.
Universities UK, which represents around 140 institutions, told The Independent: “Most universities have continued offering some in-person teaching, support, and access to learning resources and study spaces where it is possible to deliver these in a physically distanced way, alongside online provision.”
“Universities are committed to ensuring that all students can progress this year, and have spent much more compared to a ‘normal’ year on Covid-19 safety measures, enhanced digital learning platforms, and putting additional learning and wellbeing support in place.”
A statement from the organisation added: “In these challenging times the health and safety of students and staff remains the priority. All universities will continue following the latest government guidance and advice from local public health teams, and will keep the balance of in-person and online teaching under constant review.”