Campaigners at the University of the Arts London (UAL) claimed victory after the university committed to freezing fees at £9000 for continuing students last month.
The university will charge fees at £9000 per year for home and EU students continuing their degrees next year, following a campaign against increased tuition fees after fears were raised over the summer that students would be charged extra.
However UAL will raise its fees to £9,250 per year –the new maximum level allowed– for new students enrolling from 2017/18.
The #FixtheFees campaign was launched at the beginning of the academic year by the students’ union’s sabbatical officers after they were not given adequate assurances in their discussions with UAL management.
The campaign collected over a thousand signatures across both online and paper-based petitions during Freshers’ Fair, and asked sports clubs and societies to post photos of themselves holding a #FixTheFees sign on social media, before the SU resumed talks with the university.
— Arts Students’ Union (@ArtsSU_) October 17, 2016
Explaining these tactics in an article, the SU wrote: “We presented our case, explaining why it’s unjust for the university to just suddenly increase fees for students who were expecting to pay £9,000 for three years, how even a small increase would undermine students’ trust in the university and why fee rises were a matter of choice and priorities, not a financial necessity.
“We made it clear that neither we nor students would give up easily. We had plans to escalate the campaign – however, much to our surprise, UAL soon agreed to keep fees at £9,000 for all current home and EU students for the duration of their degree!”
Students also lobbied the university to opt out of from the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) mechanism, but a university spokesperson told London Student UAL would not be withdrawing.
The UAL students’ union’s campaigns officer Ana Oppenheim, a #FixTheFees organiser, said: “We will be trying to convince UAL that the TEF would be harmful for the institution. We’d like to see the university take a principled stance and not take part.”
She added: “We’ll also be campaigning to freeze international student fees, which at the moment still go up every year. There’s some long and hard battles in front of us but this major victory was a great way to start the academic year.”
A spokesperson for UAL said: “As a specialist institution, UAL’s subjects cost well over £10,000 per student. We have therefore increased fees for new Home and EU students to £9,250. This is the first fee increase in five years, and will apply to students beginning undergraduate courses in 2017/18.
“UAL does not make a profit. We reinvest all our income in making the university better. The new fee threshold does not cover the full cost of each subject, but will help us continue to provide an exceptional arts education.”
Oppenheim confirmed the students’ union would be taking further action over UAL’s stance on TEF. On Monday evening, its student council passed a motion to boycott the National Student Survey, one of the metrics used in this mechanism.
She said: “We’re opposed to marketization and to linking “quality,” however measured, with fee rises. This is the case we will be making to UAL.”