Student led petition and Durham Students’ Union react to planned increase in tuition fees

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After the initial student reaction against Durham’s increase in tuition fees for the 2017/2018 academic year, the University has been further condemned by Durham Students’ Union, DSU President Alice Dee, and a petition to the Vice-Chancellor which amassed over 400 supporters in under 24 hours.

The University’s decision to raise tuition fees from £9,000 to £9,250, after new government proposals which would allow increases in line with inflation, has been heavily criticised by many students on social media.

Durham University was one of several English universities to announce this change ahead of a parliament decision on whether or not to remove the limit of £9,000. Although on Thursday the government released a statement to set out the process of increasing the fees, many MPs have condemned and opposed the plans.

Durham Students’ Union has released a statement expressing that it “opposes the tuition fee increase, and believes that the challenges of diversity and accessibility in Durham are only increased by making degrees here more expensive.

“Moreover, the uncapping of fees at high-performing universities like Durham, will effectively introduce a two-tier system of higher education where the best universities become more expensive and less accessible to already under-represented groups.”

Students’ Union President has also condemned the fact that “there was no student representation at the committee where this decision was taken by the University.”

She expressed similar unease that the decision portrays the University as “elitist and disconnected from the reality of student life and student concerns.

“This isn’t the Durham we’re proud of, or the message we want to give to prospective students who may face financial hardship when it comes to considering their higher education.”

In addition to this, George Stanbury, a third year English and Spanish student at Grey College, has petitioned Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of the University, to reverse the increase.

He expressed his disappointment at the plans, telling Palatinate: “The way Durham University have advertised the tuition fee increase sells students short. We have not been kept in the loop about a decision which affects current and future students and this is unacceptable.

“I have started this petition so that the opinion of students can be heard, because we are all too often ignored. As Vice-Chancellor, ultimate responsibility lies with Professor Corbridge and he must start listening to the people he seeks to serve.”

He echoed the concerns of the Students’ Union over accessibility, continuing to say: “We all hugely enjoy our experiences at Durham and this fee increase does nothing to promote the welcoming, accepting image Durham wants to project. With sharply increasing accommodation fees and the withdrawal of maintenance grants, this decision will contribute to students feeling priced out of an already expensive university.

“Durham should welcome people from all backgrounds, but risks creating a far less accepting environment if things continue on their current path.”

The decision to increase tuition fees comes after a strong reaction within the student community against the new, £7,058 standard-let college accommodation prices which were announced earlier this academic year.

Durham Students’ Union has criticised the University for failing to consult students on the matter of tuition fees, despite committing to doing so after the months of campaigning against the accommodation prices which included the ‘Funeral for Accessible Education’.

They also expressed concern over the fact that “the move comes before any information has been confirmed about how both student loans and University scholarships and bursaries will be able to support students”.

Photograph: Tom Page

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