By Fran Allfrey and Zoe Tipler
Over the last year, students’ unions across the country have been helping students fight back against various proposals within the Government’s Higher Education White Paper. When £9000 fees were announced last summer, the National Union of Students (NUS) urged unions to turn that disappointing set-back into a positive: and use the impending fee-rise as a way to pressure universities to ‘come clean’ on what £9000 should actually include.
KCLSU President Hannah Barlow, and Vice President Academic Affairs Simi Smith, led the campaign against hidden course costs at King’s. A survey ran through the autumn term for all students to fill in their course costs, and course reps were also asked to feedback any suggestions for solutions. Furthermore, the student officers and student council got out and about on campus to ask students what they think they are unfairly paying for, and what that amounts to.
The results of these surveys – which Roar! reported on in the last issue – showed that many students arrived at King’s unaware that they would have to fork out for field trips, CRB checks, travel to medical placements, books or lab equipment which is essential to their course. Unions across the country found the same happening up and down the UK.
Using this data collected at local unions, the NUS were able to put together a report, to pressure the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency, like the OFSTED of Universities) to take a closer look at regulations which universities have to follow. Following months of lobbying, the QAA have now ruled within their UK Quality Code that universities are required to provide information on any additional costs to prospective students. Indicator 2 of the Code states that universities must: ‘ensure that they are transparent about the costs students have to meet, but also that they do not deter students as a result’. This is a clear push for universities to include as many costs as possible within their tuition fees. Excellent news for students.
Barlow will now be submitting the results of the KCLSU survey, with solutions proposed to tackle the commonest problems at King’s, to the College Education Committee to be discussed by Departmental and School Heads.
The recommendations that Barlow will be presenting to the College Education Committee (the highest Education committee at King’s) include:
- Students should be allocated printing credits every year to cover the cost of all formative and summative assessment that is required in a printed format. This includes essays, dissertations and reports.
- If students are not provided with printed lecture notes then the College will also provide them with enough print credits to make one copy of each set of lecture notes given electronically.
- Students will be provided with electronic course packs free of charge. These course packs will contain all the essential reading they are required to undertake which cannot be found in library books.
- If a student required a course pack in printed format, they must pre order their copy through their department at the beginning of the year, and they shall receive this pack for free.
- If a student requires a CRB check to proceed with a part of their course, College will cover the cost.
- King’s shall establish a system to provide means tested support in order to create provision for students to apply for financial aid with ‘optional course’ costs. This could include money for: trips, electives, specialist equipment, conferences and professional affiliation fees.
You can find the full report and recommendations which Barlow will be taking to the CEC at www.kclsu.org/hideandseek.
Roar! are excited that this Hidden Course Costs issue appears to have gained real momentum this year, following on from Roar!’s exclusive of November 2011 where we displayed the ‘true’ cost of courses at King’s. We pay a lot to be at this university, and whilst that’s not the be all and end all, we deserve much clearer guidance on what we can expect from King’s.