University Students Must Still Pay Full Tuition Fees If Classes Are Online
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English universities can still charge full tuition fees to students if their courses are taught online, the government has confirmed.
Minister of state for higher education, Michele Donlan, said students will not be entitled to refunds or compensation ‘if the quality is there’ reports the Independent.
Ms Donlan said: “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.
“We have always said that we don’t believe students would be entitled to reimbursements of tuition fees if the quality is there. Of course, there are processes that they can follow if they feel that the quality isn’t there.”
The news comes after a survey of nearly 10,000 students carried out by NUS and OneVoice Digital found that a staggering 80% are worried about how they will manage financially as a result of coronavirus, with 72% worried about their ability to pay rent and 70% concerned over bill payments.
The government has also announced a financial support package for universities affected by campus closures and reduced numbers of international students coming to the UK.
Approximately £2.6 billion in tuition fee payments and £100 million in research funding from the next academic year will be brought forward in attempts to ease the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and universities will be able to use £46m of existing funds for April and May to support students who find themselves in financial difficulty.
There will also be temporary controls to limit the number of places for UK and EU students for 2020-21 to try and prevent universities from competing to recruit the reduced number of applicants, while ministers have been given the ability to allocate an additional 10,000 places, with 5,000 ring-fenced for nursing, midwifery or allied health courses.
Universities UK, which represents the sector, welcomed the measures, saying: “[This is] recognition from government of the central role that universities will play in the recovery 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 Universities and College Union (UCU) has criticised the government for failing to go far enough in addressing the estimated £2.5m ‘black hole’ that will be left in university funding.
General secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, said: “This package does not deliver the protection or stability that students, staff and the communities they serve so desperately need,” said which represents academic staff.
“The Office for Budget Responsibility says universities are most at risk of financial pain from the current crisis and they need more than IOUs to solve the problems they face.
“Instead of kicking the can down the road, the government must underwrite funding lost from a fall in domestic and international student numbers and remove incentives for universities to compete against each other at a time when we need to be pulling together.’
And the Shadow minister for further education, Emma Hardy, said: “This disappointing 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.”
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