The activist group, Advocate for Fee Reform (AFFR) is calling on British universities to urgently considering reviewing tuition and other fees. The call comes as debate rages about the high cost of achieving academic qualifications and the resulting huge student loans.
AFFR was recently formed to lobby for action on behalf of students and their families who are burdened by debt related to financing their education. “This issue has been on the backburner for too long and needs to be brought front and centre of the debate,” said Advocate of Fee Reform activist Odette Campbell during a recent discussion among students at Sussex University.
Campbell says she has heard complaints from British, European and international students who have voiced concern about fees, and she believes it is time for action. International students, including those from the Caribbean, are most impacted by the tuition fee structure. Whereas postgraduate students from the UK pay GBP9,000 per year, Caribbean and other international students pay between GBP 18,500 and 20,000 pounds sterling.
During a strike by the University and College Union (UCU) in February 2018, Campbell called attention to the issue by distributing pamphlets advocating for reform to government and UCU officials, students and other protesters.
UCU Regional Representative, Michael Moran supports the campaign and told Campbell, “We have always taken the position that university education should be free at the entry point, so we agree with the abolition of all fees and the return of the living cost.”
Asked about the concern that international students are of the view that they are made to subsidise British students by paying double the quantum in tuition fees, Moran said, “I agree with you totally because international students and staff bring a different perspective to our institutions. So, I don’t see why they should have to pay in excess when their presence adds value.”
President of the UCU Sussex branch, Chris Chatwin also thinks it is time for a review, “I think that the UCU’s position is that, they think the government should pay the fees. Obviously, that would be for UK students. For international students, that becomes more challenging, but I think that there are a lot of bursaries around that can help.
Labour MP for Brighton, Lloyd Russel-Moyle told Campbell in an exclusive interview that “Labour’s position is that fees should be abolished.”
In November 2017, AFFR activist Odette Campbell took the opportunity to discuss the concerns about the fees with Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell when he embarked on the first in a series of one-on-one meetings with interested students.
Campbell informed Tickell that many Caribbean students relish a chance to study at Sussex and other great universities in the UK but were deterred by the exorbitant fees. Tickell said that while he noted the concern, his hands are tied, “because the fees are set by the government and not determined by the universities.”
On 19 February 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a review into the funding of university courses. It will be led by the former city financier Philip Augur and could result in lower fees for some courses and the return of maintenance grants.
In announcing the review, May said poorer students were “bearing the highest levels of debt” in the current system, which she said was not good enough. “We must have an education system at all levels which serves the needs of every child. And if we consider the experience which many young people have of our system as it is, is clear that we do not have such a system today,” she said.
Advocate for Fee Reform