‘Fixed-fees’ campaign set back by £900 international student fee increase

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A national campaign designed to abolish increases to international tuition fees has been hampered by the University’s plans to further increase fees by up to £900 for the next academic year.

International students completing a laboratory-based course at Durham will next year see their tuition fees increase from £17,000 to £17,900 whilst classroom-based courses will increase from £13,300 to £14,000.

According to the National Union of Students, these increases represent a growing trend at UK universities, as their campaign has revealed that each year 175,000 students have their fees increased “without notice, reason or support”.

David Morris, the Durham Student Union’s Academic Officer, said:

“Durham has raised its fees at a consistent rate of around £700 over the last four years, though there is variation on some specific courses.

“This does not appear to be directly linked to wider inflation trends.

“Fees for classroom courses have increased from £11,970 in 2011/2012 to £14,000 for 2014/15, and for laboratory courses from £15,300 to £17,900 in the same time span.”

Durham University’s decision to substantially increase international tuition fees has come at a time when the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Nottingham have responded to the NUS’ campaign, implementing a fixed-fee system for their international students.

“I feel used as an international student – my fees are jacked up so that the University can make more money.”

The increases have sparked major concern over the welfare of international students at Durham with some claiming that they are unable to cover the cost of food or travel home during holidays.

One international student at Durham who preferred to remain anonymous told Palatinate:

“I am working two jobs to make up last year’s £700 increase, which means I don’t have any time for any serious extra-curricular activities because my evenings and afternoons are always busy.

“I feel used as an international student – my fees are jacked up so that the University can make more money.”

Another student, who also wished to remain anonymous, said:

“Economic hardship is my norm at the moment.

“If I had known ahead of time that there would be this much of an increase to my fees I almost definitely would have gone to a different University.

“Now I’m trapped. I can’t afford to leave the programme here and I’m not even entirely certain I can afford to get home if I decide to forfeit my degree.”

Most postgraduate international students will face identical increases to their fees next year.

Katherine Krick, a PhD candidate at the Department of History told Palatinate:

“I do not find it morally acceptable for the University to raise the fee rate of any student during their degree.

“I have felt increasingly unable to participate in the activities expected of a research graduate such as field research and conference attendance because of an inability to pay conference fees or to take time off from my part-time job.”

The NUS plans to send a signed petition to Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, after research showed that students who pay unexpected additional costs of £1,000 or more are three times more likely to consider leaving their programme.

“If I had known ahead of time that there would be this much of an increase to my fees I almost definitely would have gone to a different University.”

In October 2013 the Office of Fair Trading conducted a review into practices of the higher education sector, concluding that mid-course fee increases “appear to be at odds with the spirit of consumer protection legislation”. Their report also recommended a further “compliance review”.

The University’s Dean of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Education, Professor Tim Clark, said:

“The University’s Scholarships, Fees and Awards Advisory Group initiated discussion of this matter at its most recent meeting in the light of the NUS campaign.

“Considerations are ongoing and any recommendations will be brought forward to the University’s Executive Committee in due course.”

David Morris added:

“I am hopeful that the University will choose to implement this policy.

“Many of Durham’s competitors are choosing to do so and I believe that many of our staff will recognise the knock-on implications for students’ financial security and well-being.”

Image: Joyce Uerpairojkit

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