Students should have their rent and tuition fees reimbursed by the government, not universities, according to the academics’ union.
Professor Steve West, the vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England in Bristol, has argued the government should offer rebates to students affected by tuition fee costs. He said: “[It] would be a very powerful signal to students and society as a whole.”
508,000 individuals have already signed a petition calling for a cut in tuition fee costs from £9,250 to £3,000 as many students face a term of learning from home, rather than accessing campus accommodation.
Universities, according to the Professor, have already seen their costs increase through spending more money on hardship funds for students and increasing mental health funding.
Professor West also stated his hope is that “we reach a point where the government and the university sector work together to recognise that all students have had a really difficult time and while everyone has done their best to provide a good student experience, it is a different experience from what might have been expected”.
Professor Colin Riordan, the vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, argued that universities could not be blamed by government for the diminished student experience. He said: “If government is making students at English universities stay at home under new lockdown rules, that isn’t about universities competing badly or offering a bad service, it is something the government has done.”
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, suggested that universities were responsible for deciding whether to impose fee refunds.
We intend to work with students and student unions over the next few months to identify where the quality of provision is not good enough
– Nicola Dandrige, Office for Students
Vicky Blake, president of the University and College Union, argued that the government must enforce a “proper bailout” and that universities must be able to compensate students “without a further decimation of staffing in the sector”.
Blake also remarked that universities have “pressured students to come to campus under the illusion that it was something approaching normal, when that was never going to be possible”.
Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, argued that universities and staff were doing all they could to support students under “incredibly challenging and ever-changing circumstances”.
However, Simon Marginson, the professor of higher education at the University of Oxford, has predicted the government will refuse to pay as they can “sit back and watch universities tough it out with students”.
The chief executive of the Office for Students Nicola Dandridge has said that universities have “worked tirelessly under great pressure” to maintain good quality teaching.
Ms Dandridge also remarked that “where students are not receiving good-quality teaching, whether face to face or remote, then we will intervene,” remarked Ms Dandridge. “We intend to work with students and student unions over the next few months to identify where the quality of provision is not good enough.”