Bristol SU launches Fee Justice campaign for ‘Class of Covid’

The campaign is encouraging both local and national action

Today the Bristol SU elected officers have launched a campaign for tuition fee compensation for the “Class of Covid”.

The Fee Justice campaign, which is in line with action from other SU’s across the country, aims to gain compensation for this year’s students, reduce the amounts paid for international tuition fees and highlight to the government that the current tuition fee model is unworkable.

Spearheading the movement is the Undergraduate Education Officer, David Ion, and Roy Kiruri, International Student’s Officer, who stress that the campaign is “not trying to undermine the work staff continue to put into students’ education, but is in recognition of the blatant fact that Covid has impacted students’ educational experience”.

The campaign is centred around collective action from students, and officers hope it will gain strength through student participation in letter writing to MPs, a virtual rally and sharing their stories of disrupted education in letters to Hugh Brady and on social media. These experiences will be used to evidence why fee compensation is needed.

In an officer statement, they said: “This year the promise of ‘blended learning’ has been far from the reality. We’re calling for compensation on tuition fees for the experience received this academic year by the ‘Class of Covid’.

“Students across the board have missed out on opportunities they would have in a normal year, and students feel that the university experience sold to them over summer has been far from the reality.”

They highlighted the injustice and financial burden the pandemic has put on international students at Bristol Uni stating: “International students have been particularly badly hit, some having travelled across the globe to be in Bristol for no reason, and some not even making it to Bristol the entirety of this academic year.

“Having to pay up to £38,000 a year with fees set to rise again in 2021/22 seems wholly unjustified given the circumstances”.

How to get involved

The campaign launched today with three specific calls to action: Let the university know why you’re joining the campaign by sending an email, using this template, to Vice Chancellor Hugh Brady, fill out a form as to why you are partaking in the campaign and to share your story and the campaign on social media by posting a video to your Instagram story. There will be a virtual Town Hall event to finish off the first week.

They also encouraged you to sign the national petition for Tuition Fee Compensation to get involved in the national effort.

On Monday 22nd the officers are encouraging all students and their parents to write a letter to MPs demanding fee justice.

Looking forward to April, there will be a Week of Action between 19th-23rd which will be coordinated with other SU’s across the country.

The officers are not ignorant to the fact that there are genuine fears around fee reimbursements leading to mass redundancies, but say that it’s not up to universities alone to front the financial burden: “Justice on fees must be backed by a government bail-out of higher education. Ultimately, the pandemic has proven that the fee-based system of funding universities is broken, and higher education should be free. Fee justice for this year is the first step on that road”.

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused serious disruption to student life and has posed an unprecedented challenge for the university sector. We understand our students’ concerns and are committed to working closely with Bristol SU, with whom we have been having very constructive and open discussions.

“Our ability to offer in-person teaching remains subject to the government’s evolving Covid-19 guidance and safety restrictions. Despite the challenging circumstances, we remain committed to delivering the same high-quality learning outcomes for our students this year. Our staff have worked intensively to adapt their teaching to incorporate online provision, and to provide students with a high-quality learning experience.

“The University has invested considerably in its response to the pandemic. This includes transforming our digital capacity and making campus Covid-secure to keep students and staff. We have also introduced a Coronavirus Impact Fund to support students who are experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We encourage students who are having difficulty continuing with their learning, perhaps because of illness, caring responsibilities or lack of access to IT, to make this known to the University using our existing extenuating circumstances process.

“For all these reasons, we do not plan to offer blanket tuition fee refunds. However, in line with the guidance given to students by the Office for Students, we will continue to consider students’ concerns on a case-by-case basis through our established procedures. We will also be working closely with our Student Union, Universities UK and the Russell Group to ensure our students’ views are clearly communicated to the government.”

Find out more ways to get involved on the Bristol SU Fee Justice website.