• Friday, December 02, 2022

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University students in England propose Covid discount on tuition fees

FILE PHOTO: Education secretary Gavin Williamson.

By: Sattwik Biswal

UNIVERSITY students in England have proposed an offer to accept higher interest rates on their loans in exchange for an immediate £2,700 discount on their tuition fees.

This is an offer being made my students to compensate for the disruption to their education caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of students unions led by the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield have written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the universities minister, Michelle Donelan.

They have proposed that the government funds a 30 per cent tuition fee rebate for all students this year by increasing interest rates by 3 per cent to 6.2 per cent, meaning it would be repaid only by the highest earning graduates.

The student leaders, who are all from research universities in the Russell Group, based their calculations on modelling from the London Economics consultancy.

“We are asking for immediate financial justice for Covid-affected cohorts of university students. In an ideal world, education should be free; however, in a year when students are calling for compensation on their fees, we have created a fiscally neutral solution to adjust tuition fees, supporting students with a one-off payment,” the letter read.

It suggested that increasing the interest rate on student loans would mean that the £1bn cost of the 30 per cent rebate would be paid for by high-earning graduates, because loans are written off after 30 years, rather than the taxpayer or graduates on low incomes.

The letter was signed by 17 students’ unions from LSE, UCL, King’s College and Queen Mary in London, Queen’s University in Belfast, and the universities of Exeter, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, York, Glasgow, Durham, Manchester, Cardiff, Sheffield and Bristol. Students in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland signed the letter in a display of solidarity with unions in England.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear from the start of the pandemic that the quality and quantity should not drop.

“The Office for Students will be monitoring to ensure this is the case, and universities should be open about what students can expect.”

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