As experts call ‘urgently’ for online teaching, students demand tuition and accommodation refund

university lecture hall
Eliza Egret

Some 40 universities have reported coronavirus (Covid-19) cases since term began, while thousands of students all over the country have found themselves paying for the privilege of self-isolating.

Scientists have now released urgent guidelines following the increasing outbreaks. Independent SAGE experts argue that there is an “urgent need” to “act quickly and pragmatically”.

They stress that all teaching should immediately be transferred online. They also argue that where online teaching isn’t possible, there should be regular coronavirus-testing for both staff and students.

Accommodation fees should be refunded

The scientists also recommend that universities:

Offer students the choice whether to live on campus / in their university accommodation or at home elsewhere

and to:

Ensure that students who choose to remain at university while learning online maintain the right to return home for the rest of the term at any point, with accommodation fees refunded, and with testing before doing so.

As coronavirus sweeps through the University of Glasgow, the university has said that it will refund students one month’s worth of accommodation fees.  But this is a pitiful gesture when the spike in coronavirus cases sees no sign of slowing down, and when there is absolutely no sign of university life going back to normal. As universities cash in on tuition fees and rent, it’s unlikely they will decide to give students more substantial refunds on accommodation.

Refund tuition fees now

Meanwhile, if university lectures do go completely online, it’s essential that students are refunded at least some of the extortionate tuition fees that they currently have to pay.

James Yucel is a student at Glasgow University. He co-founded the Refund Us Now campaign. He said:

They dragged us all up to Glasgow under the pretence that it would be ‘blended learning’, as they termed it, which means that some of it would be online and some of it would be in person, which meant that we all came up to Glasgow under the assumption [we] had to be there. Not to mention the international students, who, I know some spent thousands on flights to get to Glasgow, told by the university to come up, and the second they got there, ‘sorry lads, it’s all online’.

Yucel says that Refund Us Now’s aim is to

secure 15% cash refunds for every single student who has been lied to, manipulated, and now subjected to overly-reactive and draconian measures at the hands of their universities and governments.

‘Corrupted by their financial interests’

An anonymous lecturer at a Russell Group university previously pointed out to The Canary that universities are putting money ahead of health. The lecturer said:

Their evidence-based approach has been corrupted by their financial interests. They are endangering staff and students by reopening to ensure that they collect tuition fees and fees from student accommodation… The science is clear, gathering together, even in socially distanced ways, poses huge risks of infection. Indeed, we were told by managers at my university that infections are inevitable. But we are pressing on because universities have decided that their finances are more important than the lives and the health of their staff and students.

Independent SAGE says:

We recognise that our recommendations have financial consequences for universities and for students and we call on the government to support the sector.

As the government and universities continue to prioritise profit over the wellbeing, and even the lives of students, it is essential that we stand behind Yucel and all of the students around the country who are demanding tuition fee and rent refunds.

Featured image via Wokandapix / Pixabay

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