Student petition calls for change to the University’s policy on fees for students who are on placement years

A third year marine biology student has launched a petition to pressure the University to change its policy on fees for students on placement years.

Alec Christie, who is from England, wishes to enroll in an integrated marine biology masters programme which includes a placement year outside of the university environment, in order to experience the real world of work.

The University charges £9,000 in fees for this year. Despite this, according to the petition, Student Finance England only offer a maximum loan of £1,800 for placement years.

“This is unfair because, as far as I am aware, a student from any other British country, and many countries globally, can get the full funding required for this year,” the petition states.

The petition argues that this problem could cause many English students to abandon certain courses.

“Many of my fellow students from England and myself are now having to consider pulling out of the programme for, what appear to be, entirely avoidable and unfair reasons,” it states.

The petition continued: “On principle, the University should not be charging £9,000 for a year spent at another institution where students use a tiny fraction of the resources from St Andrews that they would in a normal year.

“Please spread the word that English students at St Andrews are having to forfeit their course of choice because of funding issues!

“This should not be a problem this year or for any future year. Let’s change the system together.”

At the time of writing, the petition had 278 signatures.

A spokesperson for the University told The Saint: “We are aware of the issue and have been liaising with various external bodies over the past few months in order to push for a change in policy to recognise the different context of Scottish Higher Education (HE).”

However, the spokesperson disputed the £1,800 funding figure, saying that as far as they are aware, Rest of UK students can borrow up to £4,500 if they are spending a full year studying abroad or on a work placement in 2015-16. They said that they were further “not aware of any decrease to the 50 per cent tuition fee loan for non-Erasmus+ placement years in 2016-2017.”

The spokesperson also explained why Student Finance England offers a lower loan for placement years.

They said: “The limited loan is based on legislation which supports the English funding model where placement years and associated income are often additional to the standard degree programme, and often don’t include the same level of assessment and associated credits as ours.”

They emphasised that the University is disappointed by this situation.

Explaining the reasoning behind maintaining the £9,000 fees for placement years, the spokesperson said: “The University maintains a credits-based tuition fee policy which is consistent across all programmes and cohorts, and we feel that it would be unfair and disadvantage other students if we were to make changes to tuition fee levels for specific cohorts or programmes.

“Unfortunately, some of our students were wrongly advised last year by the Student Finance England that the University is not permitted to charge £9,000 so there may be similar misunderstandings this year.”

However, the spokesperson also wished to stress alternative avenues of funding that the University offers: “At the same time, we are keen to support students who are negatively impacted by the Student Loan Company’s tuition fee funding policy and in need of financial assistance during their placement.

“As a result, the Principal’s Office approved last year the continuation of a dedicated RUK Tuition Fee Scholarship fund.

“This was used flexibly to award students between £500 and £3,600 based on financial need. We received 11 applications for this funding and made awards to nine students.”

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