Rebel UCLan students say they are being 'short-changed' with online tuition
The students, many of them freshers, have sent an open letter to University of Central Lancashire vice-chancellor Graham Baldwin asking for £3,000 to be slashed off their bills because, they say, they are not getting value for money.
Students claim the amount of online tuition they are getting under UCLan's Covid-19 teaching package falls short of what they expected and is equivalent to an Open University online foundation degree, costing just over £6,000 - so that's what they should be paying.
First year student and co-author of the letter Charlotte Lastoweckyi said that despite the efforts of staff, many students don't feel they are being supported as well as they should be with the "blended learning" they were promised and many are finding being stuck away in their rooms hard to deal with.
Charlotte, 19, said some students have had all their tuition online so far and added: "Universities have become a marketised system and students have become consumers, and as consumers students are not getting what we are paying for, this is why we have come up with the demands for the university and are telling them our concerns in hope it will get better for all students."
She added: ""We are being given a substandard education for full price which is extremely unfair and the university doesn’t seem to be acknowledging that in the slightest, this is why we started this campaign.
"It’s so important that students are given an adequate education and that we will be best equipped once we leave university."
The campaigners are fighting under the national campaign banner 9k4 What? and say at the very least they are hoping for an "open conversation with the vice-chancellor discussing what he promised and not done."
"We would like him to take notice and listen to the students," said Charlotte.
Fellow first year Victoria Craddock , 18, added: “I think it is really important for us to give students a voice and believe we should be provided with an exceptional standard of education for the price we pay each year, which is not achievable given the current circumstances.
"I’m proud to be working with an amazing group of people with the best interests of the students at heart who will continue to work to create a fair learning environment for everyone.”
A spokesperson for the university said: "Our priority throughout this national crisis has been for the safety and well-being of our students and staff as well as delivering the best possible learning experience, which includes both face-to-face and online delivery.
"To achieve this we have put in place additional resources and investment to transform our campuses into a COVID secure environment and to extend the teaching timetable into the evenings and the weekends to ensure as much face-to-face contact time as possible for our students so that they can achieve their qualifications within the time frame they expected.”
Charlotte, who comes from Manchester, said many students struggle to cope with online learning because it entails long periods shut away in their accommodation.
She said: " A lot of people are are finding it hard to deal with the mental toll. It can be really lonely and isolating.
"I am looking forward to going home for Christmas- I don't know if I could cope with being here."
Charlotte added that many students would prefer to return home and study online but are being forced into loneliness and isolation because they have signed up to accommodation contracts, and said: " I'm paying for a room in private halls and I can't get out of that £5,000 a year contract."
The campaign group plans to distribute flyers across the campus on Friday asking other students to support them by emailing their MPs, the vice-chancellor and lecturers to raise their concerns.
Besides a reduction in fees, the students want :
A clear, honest, transparent pandemic action plan from universities, in the interest of providing students with a safe environment to reach full academic potential (and which can be easily implemented in the event of another situation similar to covid) and
A staff support plan, protecting all staff that work at universities both in regard to Covid safety and meeting academic staff’s strike demands from last year.