By Tash Mosheim
You will call us snowflakes. You will call us entitled and say we need to ‘be resilient’.
We are resilient, we are aware that everyone is suffering and we are proud that doing our degrees from home is saving other peoples’ lives.
But we know that whereas schools have cancelled exams because of missed education, we have been denied a No Detriment policy, so as to “protect academic standards and uphold the integrity of our degrees.” Boris Johnson has never mentioned us in his addresses to the nation. Whilst those in the job market are having their salaries paid for, we must ourselves pay rent for private accommodation we legally can’t go to. The Russell Group ignored all 24 Russell Group student newspapers calling for a rethink on their compassionless policy.
For all this talk about us being snowflakes and far too concerned with our own mental health, we actually are very strong-minded. Most of us will continue to stay inside for the sake of our grandparents, despite knowing that the virus is far more of a threat to them than it is to us. We will adapt to an online-only education and pitiless job market, with nothing but a mere few outbursts on social media.
You could say that we should be more optimistic; the vaccine is being rolled out, restrictions will get lifted soon and students ought to be using this seemingly infinite amount of alone time to crack on with their studies. In fact, we must stop moaning and start looking to the silver linings, for after all, everyone our age group is in the same position.
However, we are not in the same position graduates three years ago were, let alone graduates of last year were. Nonetheless, we are compelled to pay the same £9250 as they did. Past students were offered a real Durham experience, filled with sporting matches, live plays, orchestras, endless societies and crucially, in person, face to face teaching, critical for those on a practical course and those who do not have adequate equipment to study online.
We agreed to pay the thousands of pounds for a prestigious Durham education, we did not do so thinking we may as well have gone to the Open University – which charges £3,000 less than Durham.
It is not the fault of staff and lecturers; they have readjusted too and have worked hard to transform their classrooms online. But clearly an online setting enables more distractions, less collaboration, less attention and as a result, less motivation and engagement from students. Yet still the University watches on, quietly pocketing our money when we are getting less value for it.
Whilst the government will not centrally refund or reimburse tuition fees to all university students, Durham could reduce our fees. It shouldn’t matter if the Uni won’t make money from us this year, as we are the ones who will have to repay our student loans for the next 30 years. Besides, a 189-year-old institution should have the reserves to cover one year of losses, especially as in 2019-20 Durham made a surplus of £54 million.
When the House of Commons debated the reimbursement of uni tuition fees, the Third Special Report of Session 2019-21 stated, “students have a right to seek a refund or to repeat part of their course if the service provided by their university is substandard.” Compared to previous graduates, we have an inferior quality education and a sub standard university experience. The University is thus taking advantage of our unequal bargaining position and inability to fund legal action.
We are keenly aware that there is a fine line between complaining too much and being complacent. We know that by asking, we will either be labelled as too entitled or too naïve.
Our cohort has been dubbed the Lost Generation. We’ve endured a patchy social life, tolerated missed milestones and seen job opportunities melt away so quickly The Resolution Foundation believes youth unemployment could rise to 17%, its highest in 40 years.
And so, when we are facing the worst recession in 100 years, we are undeterred from suggesting that unless we are reimbursed for our tuition fees, the sheer inequity will be the one thing that unites us all.
Photography: Suzannah Gilburt