This morning your VP Welfare, Benn Rapson, emailed the Principal of the University calling for universal fee reductions for all self-funded students at Strathclyde. You can find the full text of his email below:
"Good Morning Jim,
Happy New Year, I hope that both you and your family had a pleasant and safe holiday season during these challenging and most uncertain times.
I am writing to you on behalf of all students at Strathclyde who pay tuition fees. Since the start of the New Year and following the announcement of the Scottish Government to delay the staggered start to on campus activity, I have had numerous students get in touch with me. These students have called for the University to refund, discount or credit their tuition fees for the current academic year, due to the severe disruption from normality posed by Covid-19.
Last year when we raised the issue of fee reductions the position of both yourself and the Executive Team was clear; that under no circumstances would you implement universal tuition fee refunds or discounts. Instead, Covid-19 scholarships were introduced to provide support for those most in need. This was a welcome step in the right direction, but it is now clear that it does not go far enough.
We must acknowledge the crisis is financially crippling our students and their families. New research by NUS suggests that 59% of students are now in no form of employment; up from 27% in July 2020. It is perhaps not surprising then that their research also showed that ¼ of students have struggled to pay their rent in full across the last 4 months, with ? of students worried that they won’t be able to pay it going forward. Additionally, NUS research suggests that 14% of students have accessed food banks since the start of the pandemic.
Times have changed. We did not see the expected transition to blended learning last semester, and the delays announced by the Scottish Government mean that it is very unlikely that the majority of students will get any on campus learning this year at all. The Covid-19 crisis continues to disrupt the student experience at Strathclyde and it is now clear that it is likely to continue to do so throughout the rest of the academic year.
The University of Strathclyde says that it is a place of useful learning where we value being people-orientated, bold, innovative, collaborative and ambitious. Equally, I know how strongly you feel that Strathclyde is a sector leading and socially progressive institution. I believe that it is time to stand up to those values and introduce universal fee refunds, discounts, credits, or a combination of any of these schemes to reduce the cost of tuition this year.
Failure to do this, and the continued charge of full price tuition for what is a fundamentally altered student experience - during a crippling financial crisis - is not only morally wrong but it does - in my opinion - go against the very Strathclyde values that we both hold dear.
No University Vice Chancellor wants to authorise universal fee reductions, for the risk they pose to their institutions budget. I understand that. However, extraordinary times - which you must agree these are - call for extraordinary measures. Strathclyde has a bold, innovative and ambitious finance team led by our CFO, and I know that if the political will is there, we can come to an agreement on universal fee reductions for all self funded students at Strathclyde.
It is time to be bold, ambitious, socially progressive and to show leadership within the sector. I implore you and the broader Executive Team to implement a substantial fee reduction strategy for all self funded students - taking into account the disruption that students have faced and will continue to face for the rest of the academic year.
I hope to hear from you soon on the above matters. Please be advised that I have published this email to the student body via both my own social media channels, and by the Strath Union website. The formal response of the Executive Team will also be provided to students once given.