Editorial: For a more transparent University

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So, here we are again.

Just over a year after the University announced an 8.5% rise in accommodation fees, the dreaded email arrived again last week.

In case you skimmed over it, and happened to miss the ensuing fury from the student body, accommodation fees will rise again for the 2016/17 academic year.

The 3.5% increase will take the cost of a catered standard-let college room above £7,000 for the first time. Although the Durham Grant has provided, and continues to provide support for many students, it has dropped from £2,500 per year in 2014/15 to £2,000 in 2015/16.

Furthermore, the University’s failure to calm students’ fears over the potential for further price rises is cause for concern. It is therefore only natural that many prospective students – with the sufficient talent and ability to thrive in Durham – could be put off coming here by the uncertainty over just how much their degree will cost.

Of course, we have all – myself included – experienced the huge range of benefits that living in college brings. But one of the University’s main purposes – as the Vice Chancellor himself admitted – is to provide accessible education to the most talented. My fear is that, if the cost of living in college continues to rise and outstrip people’s ability to pay, Durham will struggle to achieve this.

However, living in college isn’t the only thing that’s becoming more expensive. International tuition fees for the 2016/17 intake are to rise to £16,500 for non-lab based subjects, and £20,900 for lab-based subjects.

It is therefore only natural that many prospective students – with the sufficient talent and ability to thrive in Durham – could be put off coming here by the uncertainty over just how much their degree will cost.

It’s amazing to think that the cost of studying a lab-based subject was £12,600 in 2012, making a rise of 30% in just 4 years. It’s even more amazing to think that many international students don’t even have access to scholarships or student loans, making these huge price increases even more of a burden.

But what many will find even more irksome is the University’s lack of transparency on this issue. In June 2015 it was reported, in this very newspaper, that the University had agreed to fix international tuition fees for the 2016/17 academic year onwards. Whilst the fees are fixed for students already studying here, many of us believed it would apply for future students, too.

The news paints a very bleak picture indeed. The cost of studying here is spiralling upwards, and most of us aren’t completely sure why it’s happening or whether it will continue.

There can be no doubt that many students feel as though they have been left in the dark by the University, and that further consultation is necessary to make these students feel as though their opinions are being heard. But most of all, students need concrete reassurance that these substantial price increases will not be an annual occurrence in future.

Further details, reaction, and opinion on these issues can be found on our website, www.palatinate.org.uk.

Which, incidentally, brings me to slightly happier news. Our website has undergone a substantial revamp, making it more attractive and user friendly than ever before.

We hope that you enjoy it, and that you continue to read and contribute to it with your articles.  Perhaps, for instance, you have a different opinion on the issue of accommodation and international tuition fees?

The floor is yours.

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