Dear Badger,

“I’m gonna have to ask you to leave right now…”

Just before Christmas, a delegation of Student Union officers, PGA representative and international students convened in Allan Spencer’s office (director of finance) to hand over a letter by the international postgraduate community demanding the cancellation of the 5% tuition fees hike for international students this year (worth 750 pounds for a research degree) and a revision of the tuition fee policy.

They demanded notification of at least 6 months in advance of any increase this year.

The information about the hike was “made available” in an obscure corner of the University website only in August.

Thus, most students affected only found out that they had to come up with an additional £750 when they re-registered online at the beginning of term, in other words, literally “overnight”. The response? Unsurprising, yet nevertheless rather disappointing.

While Spencer acknowledged that the lack of notification was maybe “inconvenient”, he made his position clear: “Those are the rights you have” (translate: none) and “there is no discussion about this year’s hike”.

Good to know that rather than consulting with students, he assured us that he had “sought legal advice” – the rise was waterproof – showing us, one more time, the kind of relationship management wants to build with students.

Oh, and how does he justify the rise? “Inflation outside and inside the university is not the same. Salaries have risen this year”.

Right! Considering that – according to the University and College Union – faculty’s salaries have effectively decreased by 13.9% in the last 5 years, more and more essential services are being outsourced to reduce costs (and wages!), and pensions are being cut; we wonder whose salaries he is talking about exactly?

It would be interesting to know by just how much his salary (between 105,000 and 110,000 pounds in 2012) has risen this year? Given that many postgrad students still have no adequate office space (which is not flooded, has no holes in the wall, is not overcrowded, or just exists in the first place), let alone adequate access to computers or printing, we wonder how much of his own salary he would be ready to cut down, according to the university’s mysterious “internal inflation”, to provide for these essential material conditions the hike doesn’t seem to be able to cover?

The second argument is that fewer “units” – i.e. international students, or cash cows – have registered at the University this year.

Why would that be the case? It doesn’t matter, really, we can just exploit the ones we have. And raise tuition fees again next year…

His response when asked whether these students at least deserve an email to be notified of upcoming hikes? “I’m gonna have to ask you to leave right now…”

Andrea Brock

Postgraduate Association Chair

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