A lasting legacy: Education Officer Meg looks back on her work around financial support
As our 2021/2022 Student Exec are soon to hand over the baton to our newly elected officers, we’re reflecting on the legacy they’ll be leaving behind. Their impactful work over the past year has helped to develop our student experience, with no corners cut in working to understand and improve the University’s value for money from a student perspective.
Keep reading to hear about Education Officer Megan’s work in raising awareness of financial support, understanding those hidden costs and improving the university experience of students from lower income backgrounds.
Background of the issue
I ran in Lead LUU for the role of Education Officer because I wanted to change the experience of low income students for the better, and ensure that students are getting the best value for money in their education. I felt that during the pandemic, the issues low income students were facing became exacerbated and it was clear that experience in Higher Education is impacted by income and finances. It was also apparent that many students could not access or did not know about the financial support and hardship funds available through the University.
My work as Education Officer
To address this issue, I wanted to hear from students about the costs they encounter during their time at university, and specifically the additional course costs that students had expected their tuition fees to cover. This work stemmed from my objective to ‘ensure education is worth the fees students are paying’, and the recently passed policy idea ‘The University should abolish all hidden course costs so that tuition fees cover all aspects of students’ education’. My end goal with this work was to ensure that financial support and hardship funds covered these additional course costs, and to eventually abolish them altogether.
The term ‘additional course costs’ includes anything students pay for to benefit their studies that are not covered by tuition fees. For example, resit fees, books, printing, online resources, technology, software, materials, clothing, field trips, etc.
Ayo Oladimeji – LUU’s Academic Engagement Assistant – and I worked together on the project, maintaining that a student should not feel disadvantaged at university due to their income or financial situation. By learning more about what students spend their money on to make learning easier, it has been possible to identify what financial support and hardship funding needs to cover.
After consultation with School Representatives in Semester 1 of the 2021/22 academic year, it became clear that many students felt they lacked information about potential additional course costs upon applying to study at the University, and felt confused about why tuition fees did not cover every aspect of their education. This conversation revealed the need for clearer communications about additional course costs for prospective and new students and also transparency about where tuition fees are spent.
Cost of living crisis
The current cost of living crisis and the recent changes to student loan repayment will disproportionately impact students who are already disadvantaged in some way, and additional course costs further prevent these students from having a fair university experience. The work on abolishing additional course costs and the results of this survey will be used to improve the experience of low-income students at the University and ensure that they receive financial support and hardship funding when needed.
A lasting legacy
The work is ongoing and will hopefully continue to have an impact after my term in office ends. The policy idea ‘The University should abolish all hidden course costs so that tuition fees cover all aspects of students’ education’ will remain LUU policy for the next three years, meaning that LUU and the University will remain aware of the issue and continue to have conversations about its advancement. My findings from this project will be relevant to the Student Support teams at the University and Help and Support at LUU, as it is important to ensure that students who cannot cover additional costs can access support. Conversations with senior staff and management at the University will also ensure that this work has a lasting impact by aiming to decrease additional course costs as part of the University’s Curriculum Redefined project.
If you are struggling with your additional course costs, make sure to contact LUU Help and Support.
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