The majority of students at the University of Bedfordshire feel disappointed with having to pay full tuition fees after two years of mostly online learning.

When many students decided to enrol at their chosen university, it is highly unlikely that they all agreed to be learning remotely from their own home.

Due to almost a full year of online learning (or two in some students cases), there has been a drastic increase across the UK in support of a significant reduction in tuition fees – if not a full refund.

This is certainly the case for students at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, where there appears to be a mostly disgruntled attitude towards the lack of financial support being offered during these troubling times.

No support for students

Toby Crabb, a second-year Radio and Audio student, strongly believes that the university needs to seriously reassess its pricing as a result of the unprecedented nature of current events.

“Do I understand why universities are still asking for tuition this year? Yes. Is paying full price for tuition fees fair? No, absolutely not,” he said.

“I think universities need to be realistic and really think about exactly what learning is going on. I think there should be considering the following two options.

“Firstly, they could be looking at what the Open University is doing. I believe something like that should have come in. The Open University costs something around £6336 per year, which I think more people would have been more understanding with during our current circumstances.

“Or alternatively, there has been the idea put forward to freeze all tuition fees for a year,” he added.

Toby can’t see how the university can justify the full £9,250 yearly cost as he and countless others are missing out on the “full” experience. He said: “It’s not at all acceptable, you’re not getting the value for your money.

“The full tuition is meant to be for the full physical experience of being there on campus.”

Actions speak louder than words

Another University of Bedfordshire student with similar views on the matter is Holly Brown. She is also a second-year student who is studying Media Communications and says she is yet to receive any feasible support. She explained: “I don’t feel financially supported by the university at all.

“They’re just letting us get on with it all and I don’t think they see our financial issues as a part of their problem.

“I do partially understand why tuition fees are still needed to be paid this year, but like many other students, I’m really not sure that we are getting our money’s worth when there are so many other cheaper options for online learning.

“The only good thing has been the quality of support that lecturers are offering us. Many of them seem to understand and share our frustration as they would like to actually be on campus teaching us in person.”

Noting the somewhat hypocritical nature of the university, Holly added: “The university has recently been putting a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing, they talk about it a lot.

“But I think it’s obvious that actions speak louder than words. Profits have definitely been prioritised over students this year.”

Are students entitled to their money back?

University of Bedfordshire students Toby Crabb and Holly Brown discuss their experiences with the financial support offered to them and whether they think a tuition fee refund is needed and/or possible

How the university is trying to help students

Although many students think more could be done, the University of Bedfordshire has attempted to enact multiple financial support schemes in the wake of the pandemic.

A university spokesperson gave details of exactly how the institution is aiding those students with monetary issues as they said: “The University of Bedfordshire previously waived fees and offered reductions of its own campus accommodation during the height of the pandemic last summer.

“At present, students renting with the university’s own halls or with Unite are eligible for a 50% refund for up to seven weeks if they have vacated their room during the current lockdown. We encourage any students who have accommodation enquiries or who require financial support to contact the university’s student services and apply for our COVID-19 Hardship Fund. Further information about support services can be found online.

“The university has invested a lot of time and budget into excellent technology platforms to allow students to continue their learning and give them access to university resources from home. The academic teams at the University of Bedfordshire have been providing a mix of learning resources including activities and group-based supported tasks, as well as live online sessions.

“Although we hope to have more face-to-face teaching available soon, remote learning has enabled us to adapt and has opened up additional learning opportunities which we will be looking to incorporate into future teaching.

“Throughout the pandemic, the university has continued to offer a comprehensive range of financial, welfare, health and other support services for all students, including offering a discretionary COVID-19 hardship fund.

“So far almost, 1,000 awards have been given to students from the hardship fund, and this number of awards allocated to students will increase significantly over the coming weeks. In addition to the COVID-19 hardship fund, the university spent £30k supporting students in hardship with the Student Welfare Fund and the Access to Learning Fund in January 2021.”

The nationwide student movement

The ongoing campaign to reduce/refund tuition fees during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just localised to one particular university.

Multiple petitions have been launched in a bid to get the government to partially refund tuition fees for the 2020/2021 academic year due to the interruption COVID-19 has played.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said that the government will be looking into what financial support they can provide students.

However, no concrete promises or plans have been made at this stage – leaving many students across the country with a great deal of economic uncertainty.

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