I didn’t sign up for an online degree, and I shouldn’t be made to pay £9k to do one

Uni students have been completely messed about in all this, and we’re not staying quiet

Students have never felt so clearly and unanimously that we are just a source of income. The government has this week rejected a request from university Vice-Chancellors for a bailout in order to help universities cope with the reduced income from international students, as a result of the pandemic. Instead of granting this bailout, the government will allow universities to continue charging full tuition fees, despite the quality and quantity of teaching dropping significantly.

The government and our universities – our homes for three or more years – have sold us down the river, and they thought we wouldn’t notice. Well, we’re here to tell you that actually, we’ve been watching what’s been going on, and it’s a disgrace.

So, to sum things up, universities have begged for money from the government in order to make up for the fact that they won’t be getting enough money from their students. And just as bad, the government have refused to give any money to universities, meaning that it’s the students – surprise surprise – who are getting shafted. Again. Students will be made to pay full fees in autumn, even if courses are still entirely online. That’s nine grand for a completely different uni experience compared to the previous year – and compared to anything you originally signed up for.

During the UCU strikes of the past academic year, we were told that we wouldn’t be given any tuition fees back because our fees pay for more than just teaching: they provide money for the upkeep of facilities that we can all use at university and the wider “campus experience” as a result. But that’s the problem. We’ve been encouraged to leave our university campuses and return home, which means that we can’t even use those facilities anyway. There is literally no campus experience. Who actually is using those facilities? We’re paying over £9,000 per academic year, and one-third of that pays for summer term, and the upkeep of facilities during this time. But the facilities do not require upkeep with literally nobody using them.

We’re entitled to know what our money is being spent on. It certainly isn’t staff wages, as a number of university staff have been put onto the government’s furlough system, or they’ve been made redundant. That money is just going into the pockets of our universities, to tide them over amongst the crisis. But who will tide students over? Not the government, it seems.

Our universities rinsing us of money that we don’t even have, and therefore increasing our debts. This term, I was due to pay more than four thousand pounds in order to have five hours of contact time, and five two-hour exams. That’s it, for a 10-week long term.

Breaking down my summer term fee, which is actually double the price of the first and second terms, I would’ve paid £4,625.00 for a total of 15 hours (lectures and exams) – which equates to £308 per hour.

And then there’s the teaching quality , which has drastically plummeted. The five hours of contact time I would’ve had were revision lectures anyway, and they have since been turned into “consolidation talks” – which are as meaningless as they sound. Having no exams to revise for, and no work to get on with to prepare me for my final year modules, I’m paying £4,625.00 in tuition fees just to sit around.

Nobody could’ve predicted this, and universities are struggling to survive. However the Vice-Chancellors were only requesting the bailout to cope with reduced revenue from international students. None of us would have seen any tuition fee reductions anyway, unsurprisingly. Universities are no longer an educational sector, but are instead all about income, and are money-making machines. At the drop of a hat, student welfare has been disregarded, and universities are scrambling around to ensure that they don’t lose too much money – meanwhile the students they rely on for this income are being disregarded and wilfully neglected.

The government have said fees will continue to be charged so long as courses remain to be delivered to a high standard. How are standards judged? By student attainment. So by us students busting our balls to recover our grades with no help from our unis, our courses are apparently “being delivered online and virtually to an amazing degree of quality,” according to the Minister of State for Universities. I wouldn’t say anything about this degree is quality, to be honest with you Minister.

This whole situation also shines a light on the fact that many students are already being ripped off, with the BBC previously reporting that many students have been paying full tuition fees to subsidise the cost of other subjects anyway. As a student with limited contact hours anyway, my fees are being spent on providing other students’ courses. And don’t even get me started on how tuition fees were raised from three to nine grand just 10 years ago, with very little changing in the delivery of degrees despite a dramatic increase in the price. Lots of us were already being charged unfair tuition fees before this pandemic, and now universities are kicking every student when they’re down and charging them for an unrecognisable online course, saddling us with more unnecessary debt, too?

But I guess it’s all made better when your VC is starting emails with “We hope you’re well.” At least they’re compassionate, right?