It’s been a year since I was elected as your Education Officer, so I thought I should update you on how I’m working to achieve one of my key manifesto pledges: getting rid of hidden course costs. Hidden course costs are any unavoidable expenditures towards your studies that aren’t covered by tuition fees. They could be anything from extra printer credits, poster printing and dissertation binding to placement travel, field trip costs and specialist equipment.
However, since being elected, I’ve made a conscious decision to reframe the conversation away from labelling these costs as ‘hidden’. This was decided at a meeting of my Education Executive Committee in November, where we identified these course costs as additional course costs rather than hidden. Whilst many of these costs are hidden from students when they first arrive at University, we don’t want the outcome of our work to be that these costs are simply better publicised. We want to see the University ensure that any mandatory costs are no longer being paid for by students.
So what work is going on now? This year, our annual NUSU survey has a section specifically on additional course costs. I’d implore everyone reading this to please head to nusu.co.uk/survey to complete the survey. In the survey we ask you about the additional costs you’ve been affected by, how much you had to pay and whether you were made aware in advance that you would have to pay them. The findings will feed into our Value for Money report, which will challenge the University as to why so many students are being charged in addition to their tuition fee. Using the results, we will put forward a set of recommendations on what steps should be taken by the University to absorb additional costs or provide greater transparency when this is not possible.
Last summer, I also raised the issue with Heads of School across the University when I met with them. These meetings proved incredibly useful, as I was able to identify examples of good practice whereby some schools covered particular additional costs. These examples of good practice are being incorporated into our Value for Money Report.
So, what can you do to help? I would strongly urge you to complete the NUSU survey before the deadline at midnight 7th April. We can only put forward a strong case when we have a good dataset, so your experiences are critical to us succeeding in making change. If you have any testimonials on your thoughts on additional course costs or how they’ve affected you then please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. With your permission, anonymous testimonials can also be incorporated into the report.