UEA students are protesting the university’s online teaching via open letter

Students are questioning the fairness of their tuition fees

UEA students are protesting against the university’s online teaching. Through posts on their confessions page, open letters and petitions to the government, they are questioning tuition fees and the quality of degree courses this year.

Students have protested by writing and signing an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, David Richardson. The open letter, which was recently released by the UEA Student Body on Google Docs and Facebook, details that students are “exhausted, stressed, and fed up”, claiming “UEA does not view students as being disadvantaged this year and that we are ‘back to normal'”.

It goes on to say: “The Open University charges tuition fees at a third of UEA’s rate for an online degree, which is essentially what we are getting.”. Not only this, but the letter details how international students “are paying three times as much as UK students for the same experience”.

According to the letter, the university insisted that “students would not be disadvantaged because of the COVID-19 outbreak”. Supposedly supported by a ‘ten-step plan’ that was released to the students earlier this year, the letter points out that this “no longer exists, apart from photo screenshots on students’ phones”.

Students mention how the typical ‘university experience’ is no more. The students insist “everything is closed before 10PM, and all the nights that were advertised are now online, which we are still being charged for”. The letter also details how “Sports and societies are effectively crumbling” because of the government’s COVID guidelines.

The letter ends by offering three ideas students have thought of that could be used to help this coming year. They wrote: “1. Extend the Safety Net Policy to include the 2020-21 year, as this year is just as likely, if not more, to affect our grades.

“2. Every student should be offered at least 1 hour a week of face to face teaching, in small groups. We understand that this is being worked on, but at the moment many online lecturers are not even showing their faces during lectures, meaning we are essentially reading powerpoints.

“3. Invest in better infrastructures for online teaching, for example Eduroam wi-fi desperately needs improving for the rate of students and staff using it due to out-of-campus wi-fi not being able to support online learning for students.”

The Norwich Tab spoke to a second-year Film student, who has chosen to remain anonymous, about online teaching and contact hours. They told us: “I have just four hours of contact time a week. I have added this figure up across the first semester, giving me 48 hours in total for 12 weeks. This is two days worth of contact time from my course, costing roughly £3,083.”

A UEA spokesperson said: “The University does understand that the Covid situation may affect students’ studies and has put in a range of measures to help support students.  It will be keeping its approach to delivering learning, teaching and assessment under continual review.”

Students across the UK are disappointed with the government’s action towards university studies. A petition named ‘Reimburse all students of this year’s fees due to strikes and COVID-19‘ was released earlier this year. It stated: “All students should be reimbursed of this years tuition fees as universities are now online only due to COVID-19, with only PowerPoints online for learning materials which is not worthy of up to £9,250”. This petition received 353,129 signatures but has since closed.

The Government’s response to this was “Higher Education providers must deliver high quality courses. If students are unhappy they should first complain to their provider and if their concerns are unresolved they can ask OIA to consider their complaint.”

They will be debating this petition, along with ‘Require universities to partially refund tuition fees for 20/21 due to Covid-19‘, on 16 November 2020. Both debates can be watched online here.