Hidden course costs report

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Transcript of Hidden course costs report

  • 1the real costs of studyAdditional course costs at UEA

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    CONTENTS

    Foreword ......................................................................................................... 4

    Introduction .................................................................................................. 6

    Methodology .......................................................................................... 8

    Background ............................................................................................ 9

    Whats a course cost? ..................................................................... 10

    The UEA picture ....................................................................................... 14

    Cover the cost ........................................................................................... 19

    No surprises .............................................................................................. 24

    Means-based support ........................................................................... 31

    Whats next? ............................................................................................. 34

    Conclusion: Whats it worth? ......................................................... 49

    Summary of Recommendations .................................................. 51

    Annexe A: Union Council Policy ................................................. 53

    Annexe B: CMA Guidance on Material Information ............ 54

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    FOREWORD

    Fighting additional course costs has been a major priority for our sabbatical team this year. Time and time again we have heard students across all faculties ask why they should be expected to fork out a penny more, after having already committed to paying an extortionate nine thousand pounds per year for their fundamental right to education.

    Even before we all pay our tuition fees, the financial burden that is placed on us as students is huge. With a maintenance grant that doesnt even cover our accommodation fees and the rising cost of living under the austerity measures of our current government, its fair to say that many of us are really feeling the pinch.

    But it doesnt just stop there- piling pressure through rising costs and expectations placed on todays student can also lead to serious harm to our welfare. Many of us are pushed into taking up part time (or in some cases almost full time!) jobs to fill the financial gap and now more than ever employers expect to see a high level of participation in extracurricular activities- meaning many of us are stretched far more than we should be.

    This is why we have taken this campaign so seriously this year. Whilst a few pounds on printing here and there might not seem like a big deal to some- for us it is a symptom of a major problem that unfairly effects all students. As students we know how it feels to have to sacrifice a drink in the square with friends or even food and rent money in order to buy a stack of books we never end up needing.

    But its not all doom and gloom! We have had some brilliant wins for students this year! Lab coats and safety goggles are now free for all new science students and we are hoping the university will listen to the student voices of the 800 strong petition for a printing allowance in the near future. Now we will also be turning our sights to placement costs, because for too long health sciences students have had to put up with unfair travel and accommodation costs associated with placements, paid for out of pocket and often not reimbursed until months down the line. Well also be campaigning against the cost of text books, as it seems like there isnt a

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    single one of us on campus who cant name a time when we have been made to buy an essential course book that never gets used.

    We know the feeling of financial pressure and we are determined to fight it in any way we can. That is why we have been campaigning against additional course costs this year and will continue the fight until the problem is fixed. Not only this, but we will continue to the fight against austerity and unfair costs with an unwavering stance against university tuition fees, extortionate rents and poor working rights for students.

    We all have a right to education and we are determined to never see a single student squeezed out because of the cost!

    Holly Staynor, Welfare, Equality and Diversity Officer

    Connor Rand, Undergraduate Education Officer

    Holly Staynor,Welfare, Equality and Diversity Officer

    Connor Rand,Undergraduate Education Officer

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    INTRODUCTION Its not fair! says the student required to find the cash for printing. Its not fair, whats my 9,000 going on?

    When speaking to students, you will find similar reactions to questions about funding the extra costs of study. However, if you conclude that the problem of additional course costs is just about students struggling to find the cash for the added extras of study, youve missed the point. Students keep bringing it up because it strikes at the heart of the relationship between the student and the institution. These issues about sometimes small costs are all symptoms of bigger questions about what students should be able to expect from their university and what a university can expect from its students. They also trigger conversations about our approach to widening participation and to student financial support and about the big disparities of information that exists between the applicant and the institution.

    As well as raising big questions about the student-university relationship, additional course costs affect the experience of every student. For many students this might not make a big impact, but for others the existence of additional costs, particularly when they come as a surprise, can critically undermine their education. Costs impact on students welfare, course choices and academic performance.

    At its heart, additional course costs is a problem with three strands. We believe that to solve the issue effectively, all three must be tackled. This requires fixing the short term problems as well as beginning to grapple with the tougher bigger questions.

    Firstly, students face costs associated with their core study which are not included in their tuition fee. Students often express frustration when, having either paid tuition fees upfront or incurred substantial debts for the future, they are faced with an extra financial hurdle. For some students this creates more than just annoyance and can bring about real financial difficulty. Whilst we firmly believe that students are so much more than merely consumers, we also believe that students have a right for their tuition fees to fully cover the core and integral components of their education.

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    Secondly, students frequently raise the unfairness of hidden costs of study which they were not aware of when applying. Clear upfront costs can be planned for before starting the course, but students cannot effectively budget for hidden costs. In this report we detail occasions where UEA students have faced unforeseen costs. These can arise from a lack of published information, unadvertised course changes, or when reading lists are released late. We believe that where costs can reasonably be made clear to students in advance of their study, they should be. As our membership becomes more diverse and students arrive at university with a host of differing expectations, this issue will become ever more acute. The University has a duty to tell future students the truth about the financial burden of their education and to not hide the real costs of study.

    Finally, there are students who simply cannot afford to access the entirety of a UEA education. This is not just about academic costs, but about all that makes up the wider student experience. We believe that it is not fair for a student to be able to afford the fee, but not all the features that turn a programme of reading, lectures and seminars into an education. Where students cannot afford the further reading, the fieldtrip, to socialise with their peers, or attend careers events, they leave university with a second-class education. Tackling this requires a commitment to bursaries and financial support for all students, not just undergraduates. We believe that our students should be able to access the best of UEA, and not just that which they can afford.

    The National Union of Students has termed these three strands as:

    (i) Cover the Cost (ii) No Surprises (iii) Means-tested support

    In this report, we will examine additional costs at UEA using these three strands. We do this because each strand is associated with particular set of student problems and each has its own solution. Before doing this, we first include details on what constitutes a course cost and the differing kinds of course costs. We also include background information on the problem across the sector, including how it relates to various regulatory bodies, both in HE and in general. We then set out the picture of additional course costs our students face at UEA and recommend steps that the University can take to address this issue.

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    METHODOLOGY In early December 2014 the Union surveyed students to find out more about their experiences of additional course costs. 240 students responded to the survey. Undergraduates made up 90% of respondents. Full data from the survey is available on request. Responses were compared from each Faculty and comparisons were also made by gender, age, nationality and by whether or not the student had caring responsibilities.

    This report draws on a number of secondary