#EaseTheFees

We wholly support undergraduate and postgraduate students who feel that their education in the academic years 2019/20 and 2020/21 is not worth the tuition fees they are being expected to pay (whether upfront or through future taxation).
Money jar

Join us in seeking to #EaseTheFees by following these six steps

1. Thumbs up the petition below to show your support for the campaign.

2. Add a comment to the petition about why your course has not been value for money this year.

3. Follow the Instagram page @easethefees

4. Send a story about your academic experience this year to the @easethefees Instagram admins

5. Share the @easethefees Instagram page with five friends (they can be from other universities!).

6. Use this template letter to email your local MP demanding the Government takes action on tuition fee refunds. Simply fill in the name of your local MP, your address, and sign it, adding anything extra that you want to before you send.

Actions taken so far

Action 1

The Presidents of Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union, alongside Arts University Bournemouth SU, University of Salford SU, Christ Church SU, Bradford SU, Royal College of Art SU, Norwich University of the Arts SU, and Plymouth College of Art SU, have all written to NUS (see letter here) to push for NUS to take a stronger stance in supporting the financial and educational injustice our students have suffered. 

Response

Larissa Kennedy, Education Officer at NUS, replied to the letter to further explain why NUS do not want to coordinate a national campaign on this and offered a meeting with us to discuss this further.

Larissa also set up a meeting for Wednesday 24 February to work with small and specialist universities to prioritise the Tuition Fee Debate and understand what our students have faced. This conversation was really productive (see outcomes in Lizzy’s facilities update). 

Cara attended a listening session with NUS where SU Presidents from around the country highlighted the need for a partial tuition fee refund campaign.

Action 2

Falmouth and Exeter are both in conversation around releasing tuition fee breakdowns and expenditure transparency documents for students.

Lizzy, Amelia, and Falmouth's Finance Director, Rob Holmes, have put together a Covid version of the Annual Finance Report. Falmouth’s financial transparency document entitled 'See How Your Student Fees Are Spent' is now live.

Amelia has been working with Exeter on this, who have guaranteed that their equivalent document will be published by the end of term.

Action 3

On 24th February, the SU Presidents and five other students from Falmouth and Exeter had an exclusive meeting with Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities, where they challenged her on several issues including tuition fee refunds.

Organising a Townhall event with our local MPs is next for Amelia and Charlotte.

Action 4

Cara is now trying to gather evidence of field trip cancellations for Exeter students (where the field trip was advertised as a part of the course costs and an adequate replacement hasn’t been put in place). She hopes to get blanket compensation for students in this situation. If you’ve been affected, please complete the survey at the bottom of the page.

Action 5

On 16 April, we joined forces with Write Off Right Now and other student-led campaign groups to lead an action day for tuition fee refunds. This was named “Students Take Action” and students were encourage to use our template letter to email their local MPs demanding that the Government takes action on tuition fee refunds. The action day even made it into the BBC News!

You can still access our template letter and send it out.

Action 6

On 21 April, a letter signed by Cara and 20 other Russell Group SU Presidents was sent to the Competition and Markets Authority, demanding that the CMA step in and simplify the process for students complaining and seeking compensation for poor education provision during the pandemic. This letter received national press coverage.

Action 7

On 26 April, Lizzy and Amelia met with Larissa from NUS along with other SU Presidents. Together with NUS, we are collecting videos from students explaining how the pandemic has disadvantaged them to send to Refinery 29, The Face, and potentially VIE. Please send your videos to l.marshall@thesu.org.uk.

Action 8

On 29 April, we supported Students United Against Fees with their Digital Action Day, which included bombarding Boris Johnson on Twitter, tweeting local MPs, sharing students' stories on social media, and signing a letter to the Prime Minister. To find out more and get involved, head to the @suaf21 Instagram account.

Official statement

Following feedback from many students who are dissatisfied with their higher education provision this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have decided to launch an #EaseTheFees campaign.

We wholly support undergraduate and postgraduate students who feel that their education in the academic years 2019/20 and 2020/21 is not worth the tuition fees they are being expected to pay (whether upfront or through future taxation). This is due to: a lack of face-to-face teaching; a reduction in contact hours; a lack of access to facilities and physical resources needed for learning/research; the cancellation of field trips; a reduction in data-gathering opportunities; the cancellation of events associated with learning/research, such as graduations, exhibitions, and end-of year shows; a reduction in employability opportunities usually associated with the course. This is not an exhaustive list of the impacts on education provision that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused.

Our belief that students have not been provided adequate educational offerings to justify their tuition fees this year is not a reflection of the hard work of academic and professional services staff at both Falmouth University and the University of Exeter. We know that significant efforts and investments have gone into providing an excellent educational offering for students despite the pandemic and thank staff for this. Nonetheless, it has been impossible to provide an education worth its price this year, for reasons outside of the universities’ control.

Furthermore, at The Students’ Union, we recognise that it is not possible for the universities to refund students' tuition fees directly, without creating detrimental financial instability for the institutions. Therefore, our campaign is primarily concerned with joining forces with other Students’ Unions nationally, to target the Government, under whom sit Student Finance providers for UK students. The Government have the ability to wipe a portion of affected students’ debts, to account for insufficient education provision this year, and to provide more support for universities where students have paid their fees upfront and therefore need immediate cash refunds.

As such, these are our initial action points to kick off our #EaseTheFees campaign: 

  • Encourage students to use the hashtag #EaseTheFees on social media to express their dissatisfaction with higher education provision this year*.
  • Seek transparency from both Falmouth University and the University of Exeter on how they spend tuition fees for undergraduate, postgraduate taught and international students, and why they are unable to offer direct refunds themselves.
  • Organise a Townhall event with our local MPs where students can express their dissatisfaction with government support for higher education provision this year – and can demand national policies regarding partial tuition fee refunds, rent rebates, and no detriment policies.
  • Push NUS (National Union of Students) to coordinate a national campaign for partial tuition fee refunds.
  • If NUS refuse, form alliances with other SUs across the UK to create national approaches to lobbying the Government for partial tuition fee refunds.
  • Seek more immediate compensation for students whose field trips have been cancelled, where these field trips were advertised as a key part of their course.

*Home undergraduate students may also use the hashtag #9kforwhat on social media to express their dissatisfaction with higher education provision this year. There are other SUs across the UK utilising this hashtag, but we decided not to use this as the title for our campaign as we wanted to be inclusive of postgraduate and international students whose fees are more expensive.

All the best,

Cara Chittenden (SU President Exeter)
Lizzy Marshall (SU President Falmouth)
Charlotte Agnew (SU President Welfare & Inclusivity)
Amelia Banton (SU President Experience)

Field trip cancellation survey

Are you a University of Exeter Cornwall student? Have you had a field trip/s cancelled this year? Please complete this survey.

Please log in to complete this survey.

This page will be updated as the campaign develops.

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Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union
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