What is this campaign about?
This year has been like no other. With the change to blended learning, this has meant that students have experienced an increasing amount of learning and teaching online. As a result, many feel that their student experience has been significantly compromised and that their fees should reflect this change in circumstances. This change in delivery has also introduced new areas of hidden costs, whether they are financial or a cost to students' mental health. This has led to concerns surrounding the need to reduce tuition fees by the Government to ensure universities are considering students’ rights as consumers. Tuition fees have made up a considerable amount of feedback this term, so we are running this campaign which will be shaped and informed by YOU.
Mia, Your President 2020/21 and Adnan, Your Education Officer 2020/21
A note on the marketization of Higher Education
Fundamentally this campaign serves as an criticism of our marketised education system, whereby education is treated as a commodity as opposed to a right. As voted for by students, we believe it necessary to fight for a free & liberated education whilst also opposing the marketisation of Higher Education. This system only serves to increase barriers for students, make worse the conditions for staff and result in a poorer student experience. Whilst we believe it is imperative that we challenge marketisation, we also acknowledge that under the marketised system where education has become a commodity, students have every right to demand recompense where they feel their expectations have not been met nor student experience has been fulfilled. This aim of seeking recompense must form part of a broader aim whereby students are not having to pay for education in the first place. Students deserve better.
Strands of the Campaign
View the different elements of our campaign, and see how you can support them:
Where do my tuition fees go?
We have worked with the university to provide greater transparency over where your fees go. Students have every right to question and have input on how and where this is distributed.
See how Undergraduate Home Student fees are used.
We are currently working on the International student fees version.
International students: we see you and hear you!
Lobby for Tuition refunds
Students have had a year in crisis. We’ve listened to your concerns and stand with you in asking for the shortfalls of your experience to addressed and compensated.
• Survey on student expectations of delivery and refunds Thank you to the 1400+ students that completed the survey, we’re currently going through the data and the results will be out soon. We will use this to make clear demands using the student voice.
• Know your rights and hear from the university
We want to make sure you have the opportunity to know what you’re entitled to and hold leaders to account.
See Events below
Lobby to freeze international student fees
It is good to see that the University have decided to freeze EU fees following Brexit. But international student fees for many continue to rise exponentially and without reason. We continue to see international student fees disproportionately used to fund universities in the UK. Whilst Leicester is not individual in how they currently use international student funds, we ask them to support us in lobbying the University and taking ownership by freezing fees and committing to improve the international student experience.
Boycott the NSS
The National Student Survey is an annual survey, launched in 2005, for all final year students in HE to feedback on their student experience. The opportunity for student voice is the foundation of this union. However, the NSS is a defective and arbitrary survey, which has already been discredited by the Royal Statistical Society as a way to measure a university student experience.
Despite only surveying final year undergraduates, the NSS uses the data to make significant assumptions that influence important decisions for the entire institution. The survey disempowers students, treating them as passive customers, rather than being an active participant and partner in your education.
The main aim is for Universities to be placed in the league tables, which have their own issues with referencing universities with higher % of private school pupils ranking higher.
What you can do to support this:
Following a conversation with the University, this Academic year the University will not be promoting the NSS, this includes funding incentives to encourage students to fill out the survey. However, the provider Ipsos MORI will still contact students reminding you to feedback.
• Do not fill out the NSS.
• Make use of internal surveys. We still need student voice to be heard in order for the student experience to be the best it can be.
• Be proactive and opt out of email or telephone communications here, by clicking on ‘What if I don’t want to complete the NSS?’. Ipsos MORI will keep trying to contact you unless you do.
• Make an informed decision: have look at the arguments around the NSS. Some good resources can be found below:
WonkHE: How much are NSS telling you
NSS teaching measure wrongly analysed
NUS boycott of the NSS in 2017
1. The UK Landscape of Higher Education: A sit-down with the VC (live) - February 24, 6-7:30pm, Microsoft Teams
- Members of your SU Exec Team will meet with the VC (virtually) and discuss background information on the current stance of the University on tuition fees and why universities across the UK are yet to issue refunds due to online learning.
- We'll also be asking questions relating to the results of our 'Tuition Fees' campaign.
- We will then host a short Q&A using questions submitted a form (the survey link will be added shortly).
- View the event here.
2. Know your Rights events - Covering consumer Law and how to initiate the complaints procedure with the university
- More details about this event will be added soon!
We want to make sure that this campaign is student-led and informed. At every step of this campaign students have helped design and shape this campaign. Students will join us at different point and it is important that we are transparent on the work that has been done:
September - October
We saw a rise in students on campus feeding back about the significant changes to their experience, between lockdowns, new tiers and government restrictions our focus was on working with current resources to help students and the immediate needs that arose, including academic feedback. Especially as fees was a difficult issue and universities were indicating significant financial loss.
After significant student dissatisfaction feedback on fees and student experience, your President decided to begin the tuition fee campaign. Alongside your Education Officer and Liberation Officer we worked on what students have fedback and what we imagine this would mean for the direction of the campaign.
Soft launch of the campaign. Your officers held tuition fee forums for students, they were presented the ideas for the campaign and encouraged to feedback.
We are working through the survey and will release infographics of the data that will shape our communication with the university. Whilst we work on lobbying the University on the campaign aims. We will also work with university in pressuring the Government and Department of Education to take advise universities on tuition fee refunds and providing financial support for this via a joint letter. Using the Officer networks, we continue to see how different unions and universities are responding and supporting their students best.
As of the March 30th the University were formally asked to respond to the questions from the Tuition fee event, alongside support our campaign asks. We hope to upload the university responses from the questions in the next few weeks.
Asks sent to the University
•Be transparent and provide students with a breakdown of where they money goes, for a range of groups including international and postgraduate students. Including an explanation behind how the university decides to use your fees, and any variance in the cost to students.
•Improve the digital experience for students and invest in digital accessibility and online delivery. Even if we get back to a state of face-to-face teaching the standard must be improved for students who will continue to not be on campus such as distance learners.
•Work closely with the Office for Students to provide clear guidance to Universities that ensures they are able to implement schemes that consider the impact of the pandemic on academic performance, without fear of reprisal over grade inflation.
•Provide greater transparency over what the Covid Hardship can be used for to empower students to access this pot of money. Provide rent rebates for student in university accommodation.
•Freeze international student fees - It is good to see that the University have decided to freeze EU fees following Brexit. But international student fees for many continue to rise exponentially and without reason. We continue to see international student fees disproportionately used to fund universities in the UK. Whilst Leicester is not individual in how they currently use international student funds, we ask them to support us in lobbying the University and taking ownership by freezing fees and committing to improve the international student experience.
Lobby the government alongside the Students’ Union for leadership and legislation around refunding fees and addressing student dissatisfaction. This includes:
•Working with the Student Loan Company to remove 50% of tuition fee debt incurred by students in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic year.
•Provide funding for Universities to offer partial refunds of 50% to postgraduate, international and other students who privately fund the cost of their tuition; that would also allow universities to offset a student’s fees for their next academic year if they wished to.
•Ensure the Competition Markets Authority formally assess the offers made by all UK Universities to the 2020/21 student intake.
Asks for the Government
•Increase funding for Universities to offer proportionate rebates for students in halls who entered into accommodation contracts for the 2020/21 year.
•Provide funding for private sector landlords and purpose-built accommodation providers to offer proportionate rebates for students living in the private housing sector.
•Legislate to enable students who wish to break University or private-sector accommodation contracts early to be able to do so, due to being unable to access their term-time housing for significant periods of the year.
•Provide additional funding for Universities to invest directly in additional mental health support, community building initiatives and for student hardship grants.
• Work closely with Universities and NHS Mental Health Service providers to ensure students are able to access support free at the point of access, which can move between their term-time address and non-term time address.
Letter Responses from Local & Central Government
Our campaign strands extend to more than just on-campus. View and download our open letter to landlords including the email template to send to your accommodation providers below:
Open Letter to Landlords
Click below to view the open letters we have sent to government and local MPs:
Letters to Leicestershire MP's
Letters to Central Government
How to complain about your fees:
If you would like support and information on how to complain about your fees, please email the SU Advice Service. Student Problems go through the complaints route advised by Minister of Universities, Michelle Donelan, watch the video below for more information:
Disclaimer: We want to make sure that student make informed choices and managing expectations is crucial in what has already been a trying year for students. Despite the advice on how to complain given by the Minister of Universities, the OIA have very clearly stated student dissatisfaction to online teaching alone is not an area they are able to assess as a complaint: “We can look at complaints about what was promised and what was delivered, but we can’t look at concerns that involve academic judgment such as the quality of academic provision (…) This means that we can’t look at a complaint that teaching was not of an adequate academic standard; that an online teaching session was just not as good as it would have been face to face”. We can still support with this, and there are specific mentions of accessible provisioning, you can find the rest of the document here under “Course delivery”.
The University’s complaint procedure, including the stage before a case can go to the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education) can be found here.
How can you support the campaign?
From being actively involved, to taking the steps mentioned above, to following us on social media so you can stay up to date with the progress of this campaign via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.