The University of Birmingham has dismissed calls made by students for tuition fee refunds.
An official statement was issued in response to a protest carried out on Wednesday by campaign group Socialist Students, in which 40-50 students marched onto campus demanding a refund of “stolen” tuition fees due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.
A spokesperson for the university told Birmingham Eastside that:
“In the current situation, the university’s operating costs are not reduced, and we are continuing to meet our commitment to providing a high-quality educational experience.”
In response to the university’s statement, Socialist Students have said:
“The university management will always put lots of time and effort into its well rehearsed PR scripts but that will not change the reality of what students are actually experiencing day to day with severely reduced contact hours, a lack of access to facilities, materials and narrow library booking slots.”
The protest was part of a series of coordinated, nationwide protests organised by the group.
John*, a speaker at the protest, said: “We want to make it clear to this university we are not going to accept the circumstances they are trying to force students in.”
A spokesperson for Socialist Students said: “Students this year are paying £9250 for the absolute bare minimum of contact time, and what is essentially the world’s most expensive streaming service.”
In response, the University of Birmingham stressed that there remain high levels of feedback and engagement with student representatives and feedback had been “positive.”
“For students in this region, the latest Government guidance remains clear that universities should remain open and continue with a mix of face-to-face and online teaching.”
Many students who attended the protest on Wednesday criticised the university for a lack of transparency.
One of the protestors, Amy*, told Birmingham Eastside: “I’m not getting my lab time. I’m not getting access to the library or campus. I don’t have access to printers or field work.
‘I’m on campus an hour a week!”
She believes many students would not have returned to campus if the university was “transparent in what was realistic in terms of teaching.”
Many students around the country have also shown support for tuition fee refunds.
One student named Harry*, a student at the University of Derby who opted not to return to university, believes students are entitled to compensation.
“I am not getting the full university experience.
“If anything, it’s working out more expensive because the university are telling us to buy equipment and software for certain projects which we would have usually been able to access through the university.”
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has defended the government’s handling of students in lockdown, saying that students should continue paying full university fees.
“It’s important for students not to have to give up a year of their life by not going to university, and they are going to university and paying the fees accordingly.”
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of students