University students in England are prepared to accept higher interest rates on their student loans in exchange for an instant £2,700 discount on their tuition fees.
This would compensate for the disruption to students’ education caused by Covid-19.
Led by the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield, a group of student unions proposed to Gavin Williamson and Michelle Donelan that the government fund a 30% tuition fee rebate for all students this year while increasing interest rates from 3% to 6.2%.
This would ensure only the highest-earning graduates would repay the loan.
The letter was signed and supported by 17 students’ unions from the universities of Leeds, Bristol, York and King’s College London.
Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear from the start of the pandemic that the quality and quantity should not drop.
– Department of Education spokesperson
“We are asking for immediate financial justice for Covid-affected cohorts of university students. In an ideal world, education should be free. However, in a year when students are calling for compensation on their fees, we have created a fiscally neutral solution to adjust tuition fees, supporting students with a one-off payment,” the letter stated.
Most students were unable to go on campus from the New Year until 17 May because of lockdown restrictions. Students missed out on in-person teaching and access to university facilities, while many were obliged to pay rent for their student accommodation, which they were unable to access.
Some students expressed their frustration through rent strikes, building occupations, and socially-distanced protests.
The general secretary of LSE students’ union said: “Universities pitched themselves wrong in the summer of 2020. They were overzealous in their recruitment of students, which contributed to unrealistic expectations of what this academic year would look and feel like.
“It’s led to a situation where students are extremely angry they’re being charged extortionate prices for their education,” he added.
A Department for Education spokesperson commented: “Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear from the start of the pandemic that the quality and quantity should not drop.
“The Office for Students will be monitoring to ensure this is the case, and universities should be open about what students can expect.”