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The international student campaign for fair fees has not finished in its fight

Dear Badger,

In your last publication, there was an article published under the title “International Students re-funded 5% fees increase”. There are a few points to be clarified here about the on-going campaign against the 5% fees hike for International Students this year at Sussex. First of all, the campaign is still going on because the hike has NOT been cancelled for the vast majority of international students. This campaign is not a matter of principles alone, for a lot of us, it is a necessity. To set the record straight, here is what happened around this campaign since the summer.

When the term started and the oh-so-anticipated time came to pay the tuition fees online, international students got the surprise to see that their fees had been raised from £13,000 to £13,750 for the year, a 5% increase from last year. After numerous complaints, a statement was issued to denounce this hike as well as the fact that it hadn’t been notified beforehand to any students affected by it.

Needless to say that such a raise put us in a very precarious position, as we now had to find a way to finance that increase at the very last minute. The statement circulated and students who had been here in 2011-12 shared their experience of campaigning against fees hike (at the time, the fees had been raised by an outrageous 12% before the hike got cancelled in the face of student pressures and campaigns).

An email circulated around at the time, sent by Allan Spencer and addressed to all International Students involved, promising that a raise for 2014-15 would be notified via email by January of the previous year. Because we had a copy of that email, we confronted Allan Spencer about it who then accepted to cancel this year’s hike, but only for those who had received the said email in 2011-12.

What this means, is that a few dozens of students get to escape the hike for this year, while the hundreds of us who weren’t here in 2011-12, aka the vast majority of international students, still have to pay for this increase. For this reason, we believe the title of the article to be dangerously misleading, undermining our efforts for all international students to be treated fairly.

Also, we disagree with the posture shown by the USSU President Abraham Baldry. We see no reason for delight on the fact that a vast majority of international students are still subjected to an arbitrary last-minute increase on their fees, nor can we say that our efforts have been “successful” until our demands have been met.

We believe this was a strategy from the director of finance to save face by avoiding the kind of outcry that followed the hike in 2011-12 by cancelling the hike only for some and leaving the majority of us with the burden of facing an unexpected and exaggerated increase. If Allan Spencer believes it is unfair for students not to have been notified in January as promised, this principle should apply to all, not only to those to whom such promise was made in the first place.

We believe that we should not fall for this “divide-and-conquer” trap and will not stop the campaign until all international students are hold to the same ethical standards and fees policies.

In the light of this, here is, again, our list of demands. We, as international students (and as any student who could be affected by the same kind of raise in the future),

Demand that this year’s hike be cancelled. First, because neither we, nor our funding agencies had time to prepare in consequences due to the fact that: 1) it was announced only in late summer in some sub-section of the university website; and 2) we didn’t receive any form of official correspondence notifying us of such an increase, nor of the existence and availability of this information on the website.

Considering that the only form of “notification” of a potential increase in tuition fees throughout the course of our studies that exists today consists of a line in the acceptance letter stating that “all fees are liable to review and change without notice and for degrees lasting more than one year to increase each year over the duration of the degree,” we strongly believe that this is neither sufficient, nor worthy of the consideration and respect students deserve in their relation with the university. Therefore, we demand that the policy concerning future tuition hike be revised, clarified and negotiated in a transparent and collaborative matter:

We demand that a “fix tuition policy” be established, stating that the amount of fees we pay remain the same throughout the expected duration of our degree.

In the absence of such a policy, the amount of potential increases in tuition fees: 1) should be clearly stated in the acceptance letter; 2) should consist of a fix percentage; and 3) this percentage should not surpass the inflation rate.

Finally, in the event of any subsequent raise in tuition fees, such increase should be clearly notified. By notification, we mean: 1) a form of official correspondence from the university; 2) sent directly to all students concerned; 3) sent at least 6 months in advance, or at least in January for a rise in the subsequent academic year.

Beatrice Chateauvert-Gagnon and Pedro Lucas Dutra Salgado, in the name of all who are participating and supporting the campaign against fees hike

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