Millions of university students are currently being deprived of the service they’ve paid for- a worthwhile education. Costing up to £9,250 a year, university really doesn’t come cheap, with most students having to pay off loans for years to come. Under basic consumer rights law, you should have the right to reject goods that are of unsatisfactory quality for a full refund or exchange; why is this not the case in the context of university tuition?

         Thousands of students are calling for tuition fees to be lowered as they are forced, once again, to study remotely due to the pandemic. Understandably, they need to pay for the tuition they are still receiving, but paying the full amount is unjustifiable. Petitions and pleas are being made to the government to step in and help, due to the fact that universities can’t do much about it independently. In spite of this, the government has set out new proposals which will see university tuition fees frozen at £9,250 for another year.

           Primarily practical courses are disproportionately affected by remote learning because certain resources and supplies are an essential part of their course; students are unable to replicate this level of equipment at home. A film and creative writing student from Essex commented, “due to studying film, I need access to the editing lab and film equipment, which I can’t access without access to the campus”. Surely when such a large proportion of the course relies on learning the practical margin of film, this student shouldn’t be expected to pay full price tuition? They are not getting access to the full extent of their course, so shouldn’t a partial fee be appropriate? 

           Similarly, Soumi Issa, a graphic design student from Arts University Bournemouth, remarked “We don’t have access to the studios and can’t collaborate properly. A big part of graphic design is teamwork, discussion, presenting and feedback, which is difficult to do over zoom. We’ve also lost access to the library, access to printers, special equipment and all of the basic resources we’re paying for”. It is exceedingly evident that a huge portion of university courses in England rely on practicality- therefore rendering an online theoretical approach is not only absurd, but completely unjust to charge students the regular price for.

               In actual fact, only approximately 40% of students surveyed agreed that they had the resources to fully prosper in their course with remote education. It’s not only a lack of resources preventing students from making the most of their time at university; internet connection issues and engagement are also a difficulty. A criminology student from Essex commented that they “cannot engage as well online, no face to face teaching this academic year, shorter lectures”. Amin Khan, an accounting and finance student, remarked “not being able to go to the library means we can’t get the textbooks we need”. Obviously, the quality of the courses has been compromised. Precautions are being taken for the safety of the country, and perhaps a year of remote university is essential, but is it really ethical to charge the same price as normal? Students are universally known for being among the poorest in society, and yet they’re the ones who are essentially having to refund the country. 

film is something that absolutely cannot be conducted online. If i wanted this, I could have paid so much less for an online degree from a multitude of websites that teach film and photography. I came to university so I can develop my portfolio, skills and create more contacts.

               A project by students at Kingston School of Art, ‘a message of protest’, aims to call attention to the struggle of Art students across the country. Their message states: “It is clear that art schools can’t run as they should during a pandemic. There is no access to studios, facilities, specialist equipment and practical teaching.  We are not getting our money’s worth. This is not what we signed up for”. Their project will crete a publication that will be sent as a letter to Michelle Donelan (Minister of State for Universities) and they are looking for submissions that are handmade signs of protest with whatever students have available; like the ones that could be taken to a march if it was possible to gather together. A protest in print, essentially. More information can be found on Instagram @whats_happening_ksa and you can send your own submissions to et@treemail.org .