Confidential document shows Sussex University’s intention to raise fees.
A confidential document seen by The Badger shows Sussex University’s intentions to increase tuition fees for postgraduate, masters and international students.
Under this proposal, tuition fees at Sussex University would be set at the maximum permitted by HM Government, if allowed by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).
The leaked document also con rms that fees for students on multi-year programmes starting in 2019/20 will rise by 3.0% annually, as previously stated by the University.
Undergraduate and post-graduate international students could see their fees rise from £15,500 to a minimum of £16,750 from 2019/20.
The University website also shows that all fees from 2019/20 for returning students will rise with the exception of returning Home and EU PhD students, which are still to be confirmed.
The University of Sussex told The Badger: “Tuition fees for returning students are available to view here, having been approved by Council, the University’s governing body.
“As you will see fees for home and EU undergraduates are unchanged – and international and postgraduate students fees have risen in line with the information given in offer letters and term and conditions.
“As with the vast majority of organisations, the costs involved with running the University do rise each year and the University also needs to invest in improving its services to students such as enhancements in IT, teaching spaces, laboratories, the Library and making improvements to the campus infrastructure. The University ensures there is active participation in the major financial decisions it faces, including the setting of tuition fees.
“This is achieved through student representation at the highest level – including student membership on Council, Senate (the body governing academic standards and other matters) and the Strategic Review Performance Committee.
“Student representation is included in all major internal committees and working groups – this partnership approach has been significantly advanced in the past two years.
“The process for setting tuition fees is a standard one that we run each year and includes consultation with the Students’ Union, sabbatical officers and the President of the Students’ Union.
“Tuition fees are considered by the University’s Senate, reviewed by the Strategic Performance and Review Committee and agreed by Council, the University’s governing body. Students are represented at each of these steps.”
The document outlining the measures was put forward for consideration by the Senate, the University’s highest decision-making body, in June 2018. The Senate meets on a termly basis to discuss a variety of University business.
Senate is “responsible for the academic standards and the direction and regulation of academic matters of the University”.
Students’ Union President, Frida Gustafsson, was not present at the Senate meeting where increased fees were discussed, nor was she present at the March 2018 Senate meeting.
According to the Senate Code of Conduct, it is expected that members attend all meetings “unless absence is due to illness, urgent personal reasons or teaching commitments”.
Under the role description outlined by the Students’ Union, it is required that the President “attend all relevant University Committee meetings” in order to ensure “the student voice is heard with regards to developments within the University”.
Ms Gustafsson told The Badger “As there are three officers on Senate (UG Education, PG Education and President) I decided not to attend Senate in June, and instead ensured the two education officers present argued against any potential or proposed increase in fees.
“We have pre-meetings before every important University committee with officer representation, where this paper (and all others) were discussed and the arguments we were gonna[sic] make decided.
“Further, the paper you’ve mentioned has also been to SPRC – the University Council sub-committee with remit to discuss and make recommendations on financial and strategic matters relating the University – I have been able to discuss and make my views clear on the matter.
“I am the sole student representative at SPRC, and have attended every SPRC meeting since starting this role to ensure that the student voice is heard in this critical committee.
“I have made clear that as President of the SU I do not think the University should increase any fees further. I would be happy to further discuss the lobbying I do regarding tuition fees and living costs for students.”
A Students’ Union officer argued for student involvement in all financial decision-making processes at the University as students pay tuition fees. However, this was rejected by the Chair of the Senate, Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell.
When asked in a recent interview for The Guardian what advice he would give his 18-year-old self, Tickell replied: “Listen more and talk less” which is in line with Sussex University’s motto ‘be still and know’.
During the same interview, he said: “I have open office hours with students every term where they can come and talk to me, and there hasn’t been a single time when a UK or EU student has come and talked to me about fees”.
A University of Sussex spokesperson told us that “students are heavily involved” in the process of tuition fee decision-making and that “certain day-to-day decisions need to be taken by the University’s financial professionals on behalf of the community – it is what they have been trained, appointed and entrusted to do”.
Larissa Matson, an international student, has struggled to pay her third year tuition fees and is relying on a loan from a friend alongside other self-funded sources.
She said: “First year I had a student loan, but the company I went with (the only American company that offered loans for students studying abroad) has crazy high interest rates, so I didn’t want to go with them for second year really but had to.
“This year, as with the previous two, I had student loans from the US government, so that covers some, but then I’ve just been working for living expenses, my parents are helping me a bit, I am hopefully getting some money from my grandpa selling some land, and I’ve got a gofundme account”
The proposed fee increase could take place in 2020/2021 even though a report presented at the November 2018 Senate show that student numbers were above the target of 18,419.
The same report stated that Sussex’s numbers are unlikely to fluctuate, meaning that target student numbers have been met to date in a context of a 1% decline in undergraduate applications nationally.
Such decline has contributed to financial difficulties and bankruptcies for several UK universities. The University of Sussex previously told The Badger that it was not one of the universities affected by bankruptcy.
Notably, postgraduate numbers are below target at Sussex and this is one of the groups set to be affected by proposed tuition fee increases. Numbers of overseas students are also expected to decline to below the University’s target.
The University has recently experienced several financial setbacks including the halting of the development of the life sciences building, and proposed cancellation of the pharmacy degree.
Dr Kelly Coate, pro vice-chancellor of education and students has previously stated “the University is entering financially uncertain times”.