Sheffield Students’ Union leads call for Covid tuition fee refund for students in England

David Gordon, General Secretary, London School of Economics.David Gordon, General Secretary, London School of Economics.
David Gordon, General Secretary, London School of Economics.
Sheffield campaigners are leading a call for compensation for students in recognition of Covid-19’s “devastating impact” on their university experience.

A proposal led by Sheffield Students Union includes a ‘fiscally neutral’ £2,700 grant for undergraduate students which doesn’t leave the taxpayer picking up the cost.

Leaders of Russell Group students’ unions have signed an open letter to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, to propose that the government provides a 30 per cent tuition fee rebate for undergraduate students this year.

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They are now calling for an urgent meeting with government ministers to discuss it further.

Beth Eyre, president at Sheffield Students’ Union, said: “Students have lost out this year and deserve compensation.

"Our model is the start of a conversation about how we compensate them in a way that doesn’t harm the universities that can’t afford it, or the taxpayer. This year, students have been forgotten at every turn. It is time for the government to listen, take leadership and contribute solutions themselves.”

The proposal, led by Sheffield Students’ Union and the London School of Economics Students’ Union, is based on modelling by economic advisory firm London Economics.

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They say the modelling shows that by applying an increase to the real interest rate on the repayment of fees up to 6.2 per cent, the government would be able to offer a £2,700 non-means tested grant to all undergraduate students using the student loans company. This would only affect the highest earning graduates in the long-term, and wouldn't affect the taxpayer, they say.

Among the impacts of the pandemic faced by Sheffield students are limited face-to-face teaching, restricted facilities and social opportunities.

Some students nationally have been trapped paying for accommodation they can’t use, with many others reporting worsening mental health.

David Gordon, General Secretary at London School of Economics Students’ Union, said: “This model, and our approach is focused on urging the government to finally support students, who have been so readily forgotten this year.