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In light of the recent lockdown, which has prevented many students from returning to their accommodation or receiving the in person teaching they were promised, a variety of petitions and protests have been set up to call for action.
There have already been talks, with the University of York, for rent refunds for those unable to return to University accommodation this term. YUSU stated in a recent email that “In the complete absence of any meaningful Government support for students across the country, we have asked the University to refund all on-campus rents for those not able to return to York.” YUSU also stated that they “will be encouraging landlords to be flexible where possible” for students in private accommodation .
However, not only does this not secure a refund for those in private rentals, it does not cover students in University accommodation who have returned but are still not receiving the experience they expected. Across the country, rent strikes were already due to take place this term and now 45 universities, including students at the University of York, have set up their own rent strike.
York’s is being co-ordinated by York Student Solitary Network who state on their Instagram that “it is not only unnecessary for most students (with some exceptions) to now be on campus, but it is being requested by the government who are telling us to stay at home. The same government who didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge students in their recent announcements”. Students can get involved with the rent strike by visiting @yorkstudentsolidaritynetwork | Linktree
YSSN are also planning to set up a campaign for tuition fee refunds. Nationally, this has already become a significant issue for students with many petitions having already gone through Parliament with no real result. The government has previously responded to petitions for tuition fee refunds by stating that “Any refund would be a matter for universities, so we are not considering a write-off for tuition fee loans. If students are unhappy, they should first complain to their provider, or the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.”
However, the situation has arguably worsened for students who are now experiencing their third term of online learning. Taking to social media, Many students have remarked they should not be expected to complete the same standard of work and be charged for it during a global pandemic with no proper teaching whilst GCSE’s and A levels have been cancelled due to the same disruption to learning. Despite universities being responsible for tuition fees, student’s anger is still being directed towards the government who have offered no support to universities or students alike and often give universities no prior warning to changes in restrictions.
Consequently, a current petition to “Reduce University student tuition fees from £9250 to £3000” has over 500,000 signatures. The link to sign the petition can be found here: Reduce University student tuition fees from £9250 to £3000 - Petitions (parliament.uk)
Nouse spoke to YSSN about their thoughts on demanding tuition fee refunds and they stated that:
“We 100% feel that students have a right to demand tuition fee refunds. Through no fault of staff, this years experience was not what students signed up to. We were promised blended learning and now are receiving a wholly online experience. This is to protect both students and staff and we understand that. However, it is unacceptable that we are not being refunded for this significant change to learning.”
“As a group we are strongly against the marketisation of education. So we don’t believe university education should be a commodity which is bought and sold at all. This is the case in many countries already and is completely possible in the UK.”