finance

University students call for tuition fee refund as they face third year teaching online


UNIVERSITY students are calling for a refund of tuition fees as they face another year of online learning.

Most universities are planning on offering a mix of in-person seminars and online lectures when term begins in September, research by the Observer found.

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University students face a third year of learning disrupted by Covid

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University students face a third year of learning disrupted by CovidCredit: Getty

It will be the third year in a row students will have to participate in online learning after education centres were forced to close during the first Covid-lockdown in March 2020.

Courses can cost up to £9,250 a year – or £27,750 over three years – for face-to-face learning and access to physical university resources, such as libraries and science labs.

On top of this, many students take out a maintenance loan to support them living away while they study.

For the academic year from 2020 to 2021, this stood at up to £9,203 a outside London and up to £12,010 in the capital.

How the different student loan plans work

HERE’S the rules and repayment thresholds for all the different student loan plans:

Plan one

You’re on Plan 1 if you’re:

  • an English or Welsh student who started an undergraduate course anywhere in the UK before 1 September 2012
  • a Northern Irish student who started an undergraduate or postgraduate course anywhere in the UK on or after 1 September 1998
  • an EU student who started an undergraduate course in England or Wales on or after 1 September 1998, but before 1 September 2012
  • an EU student who started an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Northern Ireland on or after 1 September 1998

You’ll only repay when your income is over £382 a week, £1,657 a month or £19,895 a year (before tax and other deductions).

Plan two

You’re on Plan 2 if you’re:

  • an English or Welsh student who started an undergraduate course anywhere in the UK on or after 1 September 2012
  • an EU student who started an undergraduate course in England or Wales on or after 1 September 2012
  • someone who took out an Advanced Learner Loan on or after 1 August 2013

You’ll only repay when your income is over £524 a week, £2,274 a month or £27,295 a year (before tax and other deductions).

Plan four

  • a Scottish student who started an undergraduate or postgraduate course anywhere in the UK on or after 1 September 1998
  • an EU student who started an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Scotland on or after 1 September 1998

You’ll only repay when your income is over £480 a week, £2,083 a month or £25,000 a year (before tax and other deductions).

Postgraduate loan

  • an English or Welsh student who took out a Postgraduate Master’s Loan on or after 1 August 2016
  • an English or Welsh student who took out a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan on or after 1 August 2018
  • an EU student who started a postgraduate course on or after 1 August 2016

If you took out a Master’s Loan or a Doctoral Loan, you’ll only repay when your income is over £403 a week, £1,750 a month or £21,000 a year (before tax and other deductions).

For 2021 to 2022, this rises to up to £9,488 across England and Wales, and up to £12,382 in London.

Comparatively, The Open University, which specialises in online learning, charges up to £6,336 a year, or £19,008 for a three year course.

The prospect of continuing online learning has prompted fresh calls for students to be refunded at least part of the fees.

In an open letter to her university, Kent, Rhian Shillabeer, a second-year politics student, said: “It’s just not fair to charge £9,250 a year for YouTube tutorials,” reports the Guardian.

Universities are waiting on further guidance from the Government on returning to classes in the autumn.

The exact ratio of online to in-person teaching will depend on social distancing rules and whether young people have been fully vaccinated.

The lack of clarity has left students confused over what to do about living and learning arrangements next term, as advice ranges from near normality to full online learning based on a range of possibilities.

University bosses are said to be calling on the Government to set up Covid vaccination centres on campus to ensure pupils can get their second jabs.

They hope to avoid a repeat of Covid-19 outbreaks across campus which last year left thousands isolating in small student digs.

David Gordon, the general secretary of London School of Economics’ student union, reckons another year of disruption would result in more calls for compensation.

“I think students will put up with a bit of online learning,” he said. “But if students are barred from campuses, not getting in-person teaching or building connections with each other or faculty you could see an increase in calls for compensation.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

Ex-students may be owed a refund after overpaying their debts by £18.4million collectively.

Martin Lewis explains how to check if you’re due £100s back in student loan overpayments.

We previously reported how one student was mistakenly offered just £3 instead of £3,000 in university loans error.

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