Over the last couple of weeks, we have heard from hundreds of students expressing their views that they should be compensated or refunded all or part of their tuition fees for this academic year. The way tuition fees are paid to the University and charged to you is complex, and not as simple as UCA deciding to refund you.
We also know that the rules the Government has put in place for lockdown prohibits travel to university campuses and private student accommodation from other parts of the country, leaving many in the situation of paying for housing they cannot legally access.
To take action on this, we have written a letter to Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities asking her to address financial support for students affected by Covid. The letter and transcript are below. We have also prepared two template letters you can use to write to your local MP and/or accommodation provider.
Our letter to Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities
Dear Michelle Donelan,
We are writing to you as representative of students at University for the Creative Arts in regard to the Government’s approach to supporting university students during this national lockdown.
The Government’s instruction on 4 January 2021 required students to stay in place not return to accommodation at or near their universities until at least mid-February. The announcement of this lockdown has caused distress among students at a time when anxiety is already very high.
The consequences of this instruction has meant that many students continue to pay rent for accommodation that they are not legally permitted to access.
Students often work in industries most economically impacted by the pandemic and have experienced job losses or hours reductions as a result. This situation is worsened by the ineligibility of students to receive Universal Credit and Covid-related financial support. We, like many others, believe that the Government should do more to support students fundamentally disadvantaged by its restrictions and response to the pandemic.
As some of your colleagues have commented already, there should be support for students paying rent for properties they cannot access. We therefore ask that you support financial assistance packages for universities and private accommodation providers to facilitate the provision of rent rebates to students unable to use their lodgings.
The instruction to stay at home also means thousands of students at University for the Creative Arts are unable to access facilities such as studios, edit suites, and workshops, along with the specialist equipment found in such spaces. When one’s course provides opportunities for, and assessment of, the creation of work in a physical space, the lack of access to these resources means students are further disadvantaged.
The prolonged obstruction of access to specialist facilities and equipment has a knock-on effect to graduates’ ability to demonstrate their abilities to potential employers. Online provision can only go so far in a sphere of learning where so much is gained by working with colleagues and industry-standard equipment in a physical space. We therefore ask you to support our call for all students, but especially those of creative arts subjects, to receive a reduction in their tuition fees for the period affected by distancing and movement restrictions. This should not come at the expense of universities, which themselves have taken on significant additional costs making their campuses safe.
We are sure you are able to recognise the difficulties that students are facing, and agree that they should not face their current burden. The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has provided support for almost 10m jobs at a cost of £46.4bn, with businesses benefitting from financial support and consumers protected by ‘lockdown laws’. It is only right, therefore, that students are supported too.
Admire Ncube, President Kent
Stefan Gutierrez Yildirim, President Surrey
A letter to your local Member of Parliament
This asks your MP to support students by urging the Government take the following steps:
1. Reduce the amount owed by students to the Student Loans Company for this academic year.
2. Ensure universities are not required to foot the bill in achieving the compensation to students, and provide support for institutions to manage the costly implications of the pandemic.
3. Support a bill that recognises students are paying for accommodation they cannot access, and takes steps to refund or reduce all or part of the rent paid during lockdown.
A letter to your private accommodation provider or landlord
This explains the situation you find yourself in and asks for compassion around the rent owned during lockdown.
How to use the letters
Download the letters below. They are template letters so you'll need to edit them before sending so they reflect your own circumstances and experiences. Once finished, you can send physically or by email. Find the postal and email address of your MP here.
What else to do
Ask everybody you know (people on your course, uni friends, home friends, relatives, social media contacts etc) to write to their local MP asking that they understand the situation facing university students and publicly support efforts to ensure we are not forgotten.
If you are experiencing financial hardship, UCA provides support which can be applied for on their website: https://www.uca.ac.uk/life-at-uca/fees/undergraduate/uca-financial-support/