Students from over 17 university unions across Great Britain and Northern Ireland are offering to accept higher interest rates on their tuition fee loans in exchange for an immediate £2,700 rebate as compensation for the disruption caused by the pandemic.
The unions, led by the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield are understood to have written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, to propose that the government finances a 30% tuition fee rebate by increasing interest rates by 3% to 6.2%.
The student leaders, all from universities in the Russel Group, based calculations included in the letter on modelling from the London Economics consultancy. It predicts that increasing interest rates would mean the £1bn cost of the 30% tuition fee rebate would be paid for only by the highest-earning graduates.
Based on the higher rate of interest, the average male graduate would be set to pay £6,500 more in loan repayments over their lifetime.
Since the pandemic struck, university students in England and many other destinations around the world have been frustrated with having to study remotely with little to no access to in-person instruction, academic facilities such as libraries or workshops, or social activities.
In March, it was reported that hundreds of international students studying at universities in England were withholding their fees in strike. Socially distanced protests followed, as well as other demonstrations and strikes.
David Gordon, general secretary of the LSE students’ union said universities were “overzealous in their recruitment of students” in the summer of 2020 which has ultimately led to a situation where students are angry with the “extortionate prices for their education,”
Gordon describes the tuition fee rebate proposal as an attempt to find a constructive way to speak with the government about compensation after exhausting other avenues.
The letter was signed by students 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.
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