The UK Government has announced a package of measures, aimed at helping universities and students as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the country. Although it was announced in April that students will not be getting tuition fee reimbursement if they are receiving adequate online classes, the support package also implies that students will be paying their full tuition fees for online courses.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced that the package aims to stabilise the university admissions this autumn while also trying to ensure that both universities and students are protected from the impacts of the virus. The Government aims to pull forward tuition fee payments, in order to ensure that providers will receive more cash during the first term of the next academic year.
The original statement reads:
“We will pull forward tuition fee payments, expected to be worth £2.6bn, for providers so that they receive more cash in the first term of academic year 20/21. This will have no impact on students but will allow providers to better manage financial risks over the autumn.”
Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, claimed that the Government is doing the best they can to keep students and the staff safe during the pandemic. In her FAQs for university students, she explained that many universities are doing a fantastic job at delivering online classes and that the higher education sector is working hard to prepare learning materials for the upcoming terms. However, when it comes to tuition fee reimbursement she admitted that students should not expect it to happen unless they are not receiving adequate online learning and support.
As part of the package of measures announced yesterday (4 May), the Government will be cooperating with OfS to make sure that there are enough hardship funds for students in need as a result of the pandemic. Higher education institutions will be able to use the funding of £46m, for hardship funds as well as mental health support.
The package appears limited and it also comes with a number of conditions. More specifically, in the 20/21 academic year, universities in the UK will be able to admit full-time undergraduate students coming from the UK and EU, up to a certain level. The level will be based on the provider’s forecasts with an additional 5%. This is to avoid the failure of less popular institutions.
Despite the benefits of the package, an essential aspect for students is that they will still be paying full tuition fees (up to £9,250 a year for home students) even though their classes are being conducted online. This appears to be a problem to many students who have previously petitioned for tuition fee reimbursement and believe that the Government is underestimating the impact of coronavirus on students.