Lucy writes to Education Secretary to raise concerns about university fees for online learning

Lucy has written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, to raise her concerns at the prospect of Universities charging full fees for remote learning.

Some Universities, including the University of Cambridge, have implemented plans to hold lectures online, with in some cases hundreds of students expected to participate in lectures via video call. 

Online tuition cannot be regarded as the same as face-to-face tuition, with practical degrees such as medicine, sports science or engineering suffering the most. Online tuition is also largely static and non-interactive, meaning learning will be inhibited as it will be more difficult to ask questions and seek help.

The purpose of higher education is to prepare students for life and the world of work and Lucy believes this cannot be achieved through online learning only. The effects of this will be felt disproportionately by the most disadvantaged and vulnerable students, especially in Telford:

  • In Telford & Wrekin 27% of children live in areas ranked in the 20% most deprived nationally, and 44% live in areas ranked in the 30% most deprived nationally 
  • Those without access to facilities such as reliable broadband, adequate work space and so on will be unable to view online lectures, contact their tutors, and hand in the work for their course.
  • Some students cannot 'work from home,’ for example young people leaving the care system or without a stable family, for these children the university experience is vital to their future success.

Lucy Allan MP said:

"Once lockdown is relaxed, universities should, like all organisations, adapt their ways of working to enable them to safely deliver the fullest possible university experience to students. If universities are permitted to charge full fees, but may only offer online learning, universities will be incentivised to continue online learning in the new academic year, rather than encouraged to return to a new normal.

Some students would not attend university at all if they are expected to take out a loan yet receive no face-to-face tuition until 2021. Students pay for access to facilities such as libraries, sports centres, and societies and for the whole experience, not just tuition which is often very limited."

 

UPDATE:

Lucy wrote to the Education Secretary on 5th May.

On 19th May The University of Cambridge announced that all lectures would be online-only until the summer of 2021.