Have your say: Should universities reduce their fees for continuing with online classes?

·3-min read

The education secretary has said universities that don’t offer face-to-face teaching should not be charging full tuition fees to students.

Gavin Williamson said institutions should reduce their fees if they continue to persist with online classes when they resume this autumn.

There have been calls from students for a reduction in annual £9,250 fees after universities switched to video lessons during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their A-level results, which reached a record high. Students across Scotland are receiving their Highers results.

Grades were determined by teachers and not exams because of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A record number of people have been accepted to UK degree courses, but it has been reported that many universities plan to continue with online learning this autumn, sparking questions about whether students are getting value for money.

According to the Sunday Times, a number of universities will persist with at least some level of online learning this autumn, despite a levelling off of coronavirus cases.

Students at Archbishop Blanch School in Liverpool, receive their A-Level results. Picture date: Tuesday August 10, 2021. (Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)
Students at Archbishop Blanch School in Liverpool receive their A-level results on Tuesday. (PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 27, 2021: Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson leaves 10 Downing Street on 27 January, 2021 in London, England. With further 1,631 coronavirus deaths recorded yeasterday the official UK Covid-19 death toll stands at 100,162, which is the highest number in Europe.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said univerisities should reduce their fees if they are still offering online learning. (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Williamson said the government expects all universities to move back to face-to-face learning, although he admitted it was powerless to stop them setting their own policies.

“If universities are not delivering, not delivering what students expect, then actually they shouldn’t be charging the full fees,” he told Sky News.

“I think universities have got to sort of stand up their offer to their own students.

Read more: Gavin Williamson refuses to reveal his A-level results

“I think that they have the flexibility and the ability to deliver face-to-face lectures, and expect them to be delivering face-to-face lectures.

“Universities are autonomous institutions. Our guidance is clear, our direction is clear and we do expect all universities, unless there’s unprecedented reasons, to be moving back to the situation of actually delivering lessons, lectures, face-to-face.”

Figures released by university admissions service Ucas on Tuesday showed that 435,430 students have had places confirmed on an undergraduate course in the UK, up 5% from the same point last year.

A record 395,770 students have been accepted on their first choice full-time undergraduate course in the UK, up 8% from 365,500 in 2020.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: “Universities have been flexible with their decisions to accommodate as many students as possible on to their first choice of course.

Close up of student girl hands comparing notes on notebook with laptop at home
Students have had to cope with online learning during the coronavirus pandemic. (Getty)

“Over the following days and weeks, we’re ready to help anyone without a place find the opportunity that’s right for them in clearing.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “We are delighted to see that record numbers of applicants have had their places at university confirmed today, after what has been an exceptionally challenging year.

“For those who haven’t got the grades they hoped, admissions teams are ready to help everyone with the potential to succeed at university find a place, and will take this year’s circumstances into account when making decisions."

Read more: Universities refuse to end online lessons amid calls for ‘return to normality’

Watch: Education secretary refuses to reveal his own A-level results

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