University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has announced.
The Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has said that while the format for university teaching for the upcoming academic year remains uncertain, students will not receive a discount on fees.
The decision sparked disapproval among many students, with some concerned over the comparative quality of online teaching.
Ms Donelan has responded that students will still receive “a course which is fit for purpose”, and if students do feel their online teaching is inadequate, there will be processes for them to complain.
Other students have claimed it is unjust that they should have to pay the standard university fee for a remodelled online university experience without access to campus facilities.
Jake, an accountancy student in Leeds, said: “I pay tuition fees to go to my university in person, to be taught at my university in person.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) has underlined how difficult it can be to study online for those students lacking the correct equipment and access to broadband.
We have already seen over the last few months courses being delivered online and virtually at an amazing quality and degree and I know the efforts that staff across the sector have made to be able to facilitate that
– Michelle Donelan
Ms Donelan urged students to adapt trustingly in the case of online teaching and reassured students that the quality of teaching will not be compromised.
“We have already seen over the last few months courses being delivered online and virtually at an amazing quality and degree and I know the efforts that staff across the sector have made to be able to facilitate that”, she said.
The measures include an introductory £2.6bn in tuition fee payments and £100m in research funding to support the upcoming academic year.
Universities UK (UUK) welcomed these measures: “Recognition from government of the economy and communities and the urgent need to provide support for universities to weather the severe financial storm created by Covid-19.”
However, the government continues to be criticised for not going far enough to reduce the impact of a predicted £2.5m “black hole” in funding for UK universities. The greatest damage is forecasted to derive from a sharp decline in international student numbers.
Shadow Education Minister Emma Hardy denounced the measures as “disappointing”, claiming the package “offers no long-term security to our universities, putting the anchors of our regional economies at risk”.
“The government must urgently produce a plan to safeguard the future of our universities and ensure that across the UK everyone has the same opportunity to study at university regardless of where they live.”