25 Students’ Unions have today sent an open letter to the government demanding financial reimbursement for what is being described as a “vastly lessened” academic experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter, backed by the University of York Student Union (YUSU), addressed to the Prime Minister, was sent by the Students United Against Fees initiative, and requests more support for students from the government.
The group, made up of a number of prominent UK Students’ Unions, says that they are seeking to build a coalition between students, universities, and unions to “make sure that the government takes responsibility for compensating students”.
Signatories of the letter say that this academic year has not provided students with “the same skills connections and life experiences as years previous”.
The letter also compares the financial support given to universities to other sectors, describing the financial support as “negligible”.
In February, the government announced it would give an additional £50 million to students affected by the pandemic, on top of £20 million pledged in December 2020.
Meanwhile, Eat Out To Help Out, Rishi Sunak’s flagship economic policy that aimed to kickstart the UK’s economy, cost the taxpayer £522 million, according to The Times.
The letter comes following a tumultuous year in which students have often felt left out of the government’s COVID plans.
With virtually all learning being moved online and the majority of university experiences cancelled due to lockdowns, students across the country have pushed to reduce tuition fees.
Student groups, such as within the organisation ‘9k4What’, have organised protests across the country, calling for this year’s tuition fees to be scrapped or reduced.
Patrick O’Donnell, YUSU President, further sent tweets to both of York’s MPs, Rachael Maskell and Julian Sturdy, saying that students have been ignored and exploited, and asked for their support in calling on the government for financial compensation.
O’Donnell told York Vision: “At York, many international students – who pay their fees upfront – have got in touch with me to highlight the severe financial pressures they are under, and their frustrations in paying fees of up to £34,000 per year”.
“This pandemic has highlighted the failures in the current higher education funding system and alongside other SUs up and down the country. I’m determined to continue arguing against the marketisation of higher education”.