‘It’s just not possible’: UCL’s President and Provost dismisses tuition fee refunds

The switch to online learning has cost UCL an additional 90 million pounds


Dr Michael Spence, the new President & Provost of UCL, has rejected calls for tuition fee refunds.

Despite low student satisfaction with online learning, Dr Spence has said tuition fee refunds are “just not possible.”

This decision comes as the result of a 90 million pound increase in the cost of providing education online.

Dr Spence has announced that students should not expect to receive tuition fee refunds in a recorded interview between himself, the Vice-Provost, Professor Anthony Smith, and the Democracy Operations and Community Officer, Carol Paige.

The announcement was made in response to a question put forward by a member of the UCL student body: “how soon can we expect an answer on tuition fee refunds to address the fact that we are paying full tuition whilst unable to access key parts of our course…?”

In his reply, Dr Spence praised the way in which UCL has adapted to online learning but acknowledged that “it hasn’t been the experience, as in so many areas of our lives, that you’d ideally choose.”

He said: “we would much rather have been offering on-campus face-to-face education – the full UCL experience that usually happens.

“But it has been very expensive, you know, offering that education has cost the university 90 million pounds more than it would normally spend on providing education and so, for that reason, it’s just not possible to offer student refunds.

“And, in fact, not offering student refunds is in line with British government policy but I completely understand the student perspective on this.”

Students have responded to the decision with outrage.

Emily, a finalist, told The Tab: “the university has failed students. Education was substandard, facilities were unavailable and the money that went into online learning would have been better spent on fee refunds rather than wasted on providing a mediocre educational experience.”

The Tab also spoke to second-year student Cerys who said: “tuition refunds are the least we deserve after our university has clearly had a shopping spree with the money we’re providing for Zoom.”

Other students, such as Isobel, are now calling to see a breakdown of the 90 million pound expense: “I’d like to know where the money has gone. It’s pretty ironic that our university Provost is throwing numbers around without citing any sources.”

The full interview is available here.

Other articles recommended by this writer:

• Almost £20k donated to UCL Lebanese student who was ‘two days from being homeless’

• UCL announces campus will re-open in September

• International students withhold tuition fees in protest against online teaching