Tuition fees: evidence of an unkind system

It was revealed last week that, following the introduction of tuition fees, there has been a 40% drop in university admissions.

What a surprise.

You don’t have to be the world’s most sophisticated marketing or behavioural expert to know that if you start charging money for something you used to provide for free, you are going to lose a large percentage of your ‘customers’.

After the anger of my last post, you may be expecting a tirade against another flawed UK Government initiative.

But no.

This is the story of just one humble British student at one not so humble English University, one of the so called Russell Group.

Here’s what happened.

In her first year at University, this young lady failed to attend the required number of seminars and lectures.

A warning email was sent to her, which she acknowledged but, inexplicably, she continued to miss her lectures.

Why she behaved like this we do not know. It could have been slothfulness or sex and drugs and rock and roll or, a relatively new phenomenon, internet addiction.

No matter. She missed her lectures and she admits she missed her lectures. She will not be the first or last student in the world to do this.

But, in England, her punishment was harsh and unforgiving.

She was told she would have to re-sit her first year exams, setting her back a year and meaning, if she were to complete her course, that she would have to attend four, rather than three, years at University.

A confirmation letter was written both to the student and, separately, to her parents.

In response, her parents made the following points to the University:

1. If they were to be a party to the decision by the University to hold their daughter back a year, why was this only after the decision had been made and not when the final warning was given (at which time they could talk to their daughter and do something about it)?

2. Did the University not realise that their decision to hold a student back a year would cost that student approximately £15,000 in fees, accommodation and living expenses?

3. Did the University not realise that, in the big wide world, you have to commit a really very major criminal offence to be fined £15,000?

The University replied recognising the points made but regretting the decision was final.

This has left a young English student with a £15,000 ‘fine’, a sum which is more than she has ever earned and which could take her a lifetime to repay – and all for a really rather harmless first offence.

How competent are the people who have introduced this tuition fee system?

How heartless are the Universities are implementing the system in this way?

When it comes to human understanding, it seems they have a lot to learn.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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