A U-turn on a U-turn: drop-out fees for international students higher

Controversy has arisen surrounding revelations that the University of Sussex has U-turned for the second time on its withdrawal policy, which was renegotiated on 28 September 2012.
This second U-turn now means that the original withdrawal policy that the University was pursuing will now only be applied to international students, and not to home or European Union students.
Negotiations for the withdrawal policy originally began in June 2012, and the original policy would have resulted in those dropping out of the University in their first few weeks paying a higher tuition fee than the first termly instalment of their tuition fee loan.
The Students’ Union successfully lobbied the University of Sussex, gaining final confirmation on 28 September that they had U-turned on this withdrawal policy.
Domestic students who drop out in the first three weeks will pay nothing and those dropping out later pay for just their current termly instalment: at rates of 25 percent in the first two terms and 50 percent in the final term.
However, the University has nowspecified that the decision made on 28 September, to charge students who are dropping out or suspending studies only the amount covered by their tuition fee loan, will not apply to international students.
This means that international students who are dropping out or suspending their studies will now face greater fee instalment payments: 33 per cent in all three terms.
The withdrawal policy for international students who drop out or suspend studies at university in the UK is not regulated by the government.
The University of Sussex have therefore changed their policy by specifying that the renegotiated withdrawal policy will not apply to international students.
The University has said: “Students from outside the EU who study at UK universities do not have access to tuition fee loans from the Student Loans Company. So we judged that an equal split into thirds based on our three terms would still be the fairest way of charging international students who withdraw from the University.”
Students’ Union figures suggested that the University’s original pursuit of the withdrawal policy instalments of 33 percent in each term would require domestic students to pay £750 more than would be covered by their tuition fee loan in the first term or £1500 more in spring term.
This was avoided through the negotiations achieved by the Union. The withdrawal policy instalments for domestic students have now been restored to the previous levels.
The withdrawal instalments plan for international students is now a matter of contention between the University and the Students’ Union.
Kelly McBride, Students’ Union President, said she is: “in the process of collating evidence for the Finance and Investments Committee to show that this withdrawal policy would have a detrimental affect on international students”.
Daniela Sierra, a second year international student studying Media Practice said: “we have not been informed about this.

The University seem to just assume that every international student has the money to cover things like this.
“It is cowardly for the University to change any policy, whether it be withdrawal policy or fees, without giving enough notice to students to reassess their situation if needed.”

Cat Gough

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