A petition calling for the UK Government to reduce university tuition fees is circulating, after many students will now study remotely in response to the recent Covid-19 restrictions.

The petition, which has already amassed over 160,000 signatures, demands the reduction of University student tuition fees from £9250 to £3000 in England, amid claims Covid-19 has left the nation's future economy and job market "uncertain".

A student who shared the petition on social media said: "The way students have been treated during this pandemic is appalling.

"We can’t access facilities and do not have a standard of teaching online that’s worth £9250."

Another added: "The only time students have been mentioned during this pandemic was when the media/govt. were blaming us for the rise in cases.

"Now it’s time to acknowledge that the quality of teaching/resources is NOT worth the £9250 we are paying."

It was also suggested that the petition should consider all students across the UK, as well as international students.

They international student said: "The petition for the British Government to reduce university tuition fee to less than a third appears to exclude international students. We pay some £15,995.

"The campaign ought to be for the benefit of all students [in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland]."The UK government will respond to the petition - as it does to all petitions that receive more than 10,000 signatures - and parliament will consider the issues raised by the petition for a debate, as it has more than 100,000 signatures. 

"No-detriment" policy?


Meanwhile, a petition has been launched calling for the University of Edinburgh to reintroduce a "no-detriment policy" for its students, similar to the system adopted in March during the first lockdown.

The petition reads: "Back in March 2020, the University of Edinburgh launched a ‘help not hinder’ policy.

"This meant that that the remaining exams and coursework that students needed to complete at home after fleeing Edinburgh would be assessed on a non-detrimental basis only.

"The policy ensured that students’ final academic year average would be the same as, or higher than, the average they had attained through assessment that had already been undertaken.

"The University thankfully acknowledged that there were not normal times, and the safety net was warmly welcomed by students forced to complete their final exams and assessments in the most “unprecedented” of times."

However, the petition organiser now claims fourth year students in the academic year 2020/21 have not been so lucky, after a semester of online learning and another national lockdown stretching out ahead of them.

"The University has thus far failed to equip these students with a ‘no detriment’ policy, despite them having to deal with far more disruption to their studies than in early 2020", the petition reads. 

"These students deserve the same level of protection that the Class of 2020 were afforded, if not more, and so we are calling for the ‘no detriment’ policy to be reinstated.

"We appreciate the University is doing all it can to help us, but a safety net is an absolute necessity at this point to protect students’ grades, mental health and trust in our educational provider."

Alex Jardine Paterson·shared their experiences, saying: "I could only select my dissertation project from a list, rather than create my own study - we are unable to conduct practical experiments and collect data.

"It is unreasonable to assume a level playing field with previous years (concerning enthusiasm levels and playing to your strengths, which ultimately influence grades) when you have been allocated a topic rather than devised your own.

"I believe “No Detriment” is applicable for all students in similar situations."

The University's latest update to students and staff published today read: "On Monday 4 January the Scottish Government announced further restrictions that are being brought in across Scotland following the emergence of a new, highly contagious strain of the Coronavirus.

"Extensive plans have already been implemented for the phased return to campus in Semester 2 and we are working through the implications of this announcement on our plans.

The University of Edinburgh also revealed that it has a total of nine active cases currently, that were reported to them by students and staff.

The statement continued: "The safety of the university community will remain our priority."

Next steps from the Scottish Government

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had noted pre-existing plans for the staggered return of universities and colleges - but the Scottish Government will this week be considering whether any further change is necessary.

A letter, addressed to College and University Principles, from Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead noted: "Our fundamental advice, for everyone, is to stay at home. It will only be permissible to leave home for an essential purpose. Anyone who is able to work from home, must do so.

"Education will remain an essential purpose but I want to be clear that for universities and colleges any education that can be done online during this period of tighter restrictions must be done online."