International undergraduate students’ woes were increased further before the start of this academic year after they were notified by the University of Sussex that their tuition fees were set to rise, in spite of a promise that no rise would be forthcoming within the next 12 months.
The planned increase was decided on by the University Council at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year, but international students were taken by surprise at the increase as they were only told about the rise in fees two weeks before the start of this term.
The tuition fees for international students are subject to a 12.8 percent hike from £10,900 to £12,300, including the students who opted to pay their fees in accordance to a fixed fee option, as opposed to the tentative variable fee option.
Students who choose to pay via the fixed fee option would not expect their fees to accumulate throughout their time in higher education in the UK because it keeps to an unchanging flat fee per academic year. Those preferring to pay via the variable fee route would see their fees change each year in adherence to the rate of inflation.
However, it has emerged that the University of Sussex failed to keep an accurate record of those international students who were registered to pay their fees using fixed rate option, meaning all international students will unilaterally be subject to the 12.8 percent increase.
Many international students have been taken aback by the unprecedented rise administered by the University because the structural rule with regards to non-UK/EU student fees is that they rise in accordance with inflation, which should account roughly for a 4 percent increase each academic year.
The University claims that this rise in fees is justified, as they believe that the increase merely mirrors the reputation of the University of Sussex as one of best places to study, not only in the United Kingdom, but in Europe.
The University said: “The tuition fees paid by our international students are in keeping with our position as one of the leading institutions within the UK. For example, the Times Higher Education World Universities Ranking 2012-13, published last week, places Sussex at 14th in the UK, 34th in Europe and 110th in the world.”
The University have also claimed that this rise in fees will not affect the number of overseas applications made. They continued: “Applications from overseas students for undergraduate places rose by more than 40 percent this year. We expect this trend to continue for 2013 entry.”
The University of Sussex Students’ Union, however, argue that this is no justification for such a steep rise in fees.
Students’ Union President, Kelly McBride, said: “With the additional lack of timely communication to affected students, and reports that the University has not properly recorded which students have opted for fixed fee rates, both students and the Students’ Union are rightfully disappointed and seeking answers”.
Kelly McBride was also pessimistic about the prospect of international student applications continuing to rise as a ramification of these events. She added: “There is always the potential for something like this to have an impact on future international student recruitment”.