Universities could face having to slash tuition fees because they ‘won’t return to normal even by autumn’
- Universities may have to slash their tuition fees amid the coronavirus outbreak
- In the past two weeks universities have switched to online or remote learning
- Experts warned that students unlikely to accept continuing to pay full charges
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Universities may have to slash tuition fees because they are unlikely to return to face-to-face teaching this autumn, it was revealed yesterday.
The director of the Centre for Global Higher Education at the University of Oxford said institutions in the northern hemisphere are ‘looking at a new academic year that is predominantly or wholly online’.
Professor Simon Marginson spoke out as more than 266,000 students have already signed a petition calling for tuition fee refunds.
In the past two weeks, British universities have switched to online or remote learning to counter the spread of Covid-19 and many have closed campuses.
Universities may have to reduce their fees after education experts warned that students are unlikely to accept continuing to pay full charges if they do not have face-to-face teaching. (Stock image)
Speaking at Universities UK’s International Higher Education forum, held online on Wednesday, Professor Marginson warned that international education faces a ‘massive hit’.
He said: ‘Realistically, we are not going to see a return to face-to-face education in September.’
He added that online learning ‘needs to be seen as a substantially different product, a different educational experience… and as such it will need a separate pricing structure’.
Education experts also warned yesterday that students are unlikely to accept continuing to pay full £9,250-a-year charges if they do not have face-to-face teaching this autumn.
Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said: ‘Universities will have to look very carefully at their fee structure so that it’s fair to students but also attractive to them. This could involve reducing charges.’
The Student Loan Company has already told universities and undergraduates they will receive their summer term payment instalments as usual.
The SLC pays students’ maintenance funding to cover living costs in three termly instalments.
British universities have switched to online or remote learning to counter the spread of Covid-19. (Stock image)
The company also pays tuition fees directly to institutions each term if students have taken out loans to cover the charges.
But hundreds of thousands of students have signed an online petition to parliament calling for reimbursement of this year’s fees.
Courses had already been affected by weeks of strike action earlier in the year, ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.
John Cater, vice chancellor of Edge Hill University in Merseyside, has acknowledged students’ concerns and called for the Government to write off a proportion of this year’s tuition debt.
He told The Guardian: ‘[Universities] will all depend on the major tranche of tuition fee income we receive after Easter. But it is also the case that students’ learning and living experiences have been and will continue to be disrupted by the current pandemic.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We recognise that students are concerned by this unprecedented situation.
‘The Universities Minister has written to universities and students to outline the support that is available.’
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Private schools offer 25 per cent discount
Private schools are slashing fees and even offering ‘hardship funds’ to families whose income has been obliterated by coronavirus.
Increasing numbers of elite schools are offering discounts of up to 25 per cent on next term’s bill because of disruption to teaching.
Sancton Wood School in Cambridge – which usually charges up to £4,690 a term – has said it is taking these ‘unprecedented’ steps.
Principal Richard Settle said: ‘Many businesses and jobs will be experiencing cash-flow difficulties and we want to provide the necessary support.’
But others say they cannot afford to offer major reductions out of a need to ‘maintain fee income’ – risking a downturn in pupil numbers if parents affected by the virus outbreak can no longer pay.
The Grange School, in Northwich, Cheshire, told parents this week it would be charging its usual £3,950 for the upcoming term.