University students feel "forgotten" by the government during the pandemic, as full tuition fees remain

Watch this report from ITV Meridian's Social Affairs Correspondent, Christine Alsford.

University students have been speaking of their anger, despair and frustration about the way they are being treated during the pandemic. Many say they feel forgotten by the government, blamed by the public - and ignored by their universities. 

Oxford University and the University of Reading announced they will waive fees for halls of residence during lockdown if students are not there.

Most teaching has moved online. Credit: Kiera Murrell

Some students say they are dissatisfied with still being charged full tuition fees for online learning and are struggling to learn from home. Others are warning of a tsunami of mental health problems.

One student from Bournemouth University posted online about paying more than £6,000 for housing she's only been able to use for 17 days since September.

 Bournemouth University issued this statement:“Throughout this pandemic we have put the health, safety and wellbeing of our students and staff first, and we are following the Government’s request around introducing a staggered restart to the semester as well as the current national lockdown guidance.  

 We recognise that these circumstances can be challenging and frustrating and we have been working tirelessly to ensure that the student experience is as best it can be during the pandemic, while working within the restrictions the Government has implemented for universities.  

 We have made sure facilities on our campuses are Covid-secure, including the libraries and study spaces, and these are available for students who are in the local area and need to use them. A huge range of academic and pastoral support is available to all students, whether they are in Bournemouth or further afield, and our staff have provided significant assistance whenever it has been requested. Any student with concerns can discuss with these with their academic adviser or the AskBU team.

We have also put a number of measures in place which recognise the practical and emotional challenges of studying during the pandemic and ensure that student assessment is flexible and fair. These include greater flexibility for extensions, submission deadlines and extenuating circumstances, and the provision to adjust marks where outcomes have been affected by circumstances beyond students' control. This information is available on our website.” 

A Department of Education spokesperson said:

“This has been a very difficult time for students, and we encourage universities and accommodation providers to review their accommodation policies to ensure they are fair, transparent and have the best interests of students at heart.

“The government will continue to prioritise the full return to education settings as soon as possible. We recently announced up to £20 million to help students most in need of support in these exceptional circumstances, for example those struggling to cover accommodation costs as a result of the pandemic, in addition to an existing £256 million universities can use to help students.

“Universities are responsible for their tuition fees, but the Government has been clear they are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop. They should seek to ensure all students, regardless of their background, can access their studies remotely.”