On the 3rd August 2021, a Tuition Fee Refund Report was sent to the University of Edinburgh Senior Leadership Team by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association. This follows a Student Council motion that took place in February.
The report outlines the impact that the pandemic has had on students’ university experience over the course of 2020 and 2021 and calls on the university to provide students with a tuition fee refund.
Primarily, it highlights the reality of what the university advertised as a ‘hybrid’ approach. It claims the “in-person opportunities [students] did receive were significantly limited and less frequent than they had been led to believe.”
The report also explains some of the financial implications of the year’s teaching approach, including students “spending a substantial amount of money travelling to and renting in Edinburgh as they were promised in-person teaching, only to spend the year learning and living in their accommodation.”
Additionally, it describes the major impact that the pandemic has had on students’ health, with statistics from the National Union of Students showing that “over 52% of students say their mental health has deteriorated or been affected negatively by Coronavirus.”
The report concludes that “the university is not meeting the core learning objectives for a number of courses and as a result, affecting the confidence and long-term employability of the relevant students” and that for this reason the Students’ Association “is formally calling on the University to provide students, particularly those whose programmes have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with a partial refund of their 2020/21 Tuition Fees.”
Speaking to The Student, Edinburgh University Students Association President Ellen MacRae explained the background behind the report.
“We actually got some really powerful testimonies from students about what their COVID experience had been, and how dramatically different some lives now are as a result of the pandemic”, she says, referring to the personal testimonies sent to the university along with the report.
However, she does admit she believes it is “unlikely” that the University will issue any refunds.
“I would love to see money put back into the pockets of students,” she explains, “but the discussion around tuition fees has always been quite a tricky one. Especially when we have Scottish students who don’t pay any tuition fees, but they’ve also had a really tricky year this year as well.”
For the 2020-2021 academic year, students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland paid £9,250 in tuition fees, and non-EU international students paid upwards of £20,000, depending on the course.
Scottish and EU students, however, had their fees funded by the Scottish government.
This would therefore complicate any tuition fee refund arrangement, as different students may be entitled to varying amounts, or none at all.
Despite her hopes for a fee refund being distant, Ellen does stress the importance of the university doing everything they can to positively impact student mental health.
“I really want to make sure that the university is being proactive and reintroducing students to the support that is out there”, she explains, suggesting that even if the university can’t offer direct financial compensation, it can still support students in other ways.
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