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Improving the academic, financial and wellbeing experience for students at Huddersfield


Contents Foreward


Statement of Principle 4 Background Information 6 Our Methodology 9 Our results & Big Ideas for Change



1. Foreword

In December 2013, the Students’ Union ran a campaign which looked into the various extra costs students were required to pay for on their courses, on top of their tuition fees. As well as identifying what these extra costs were, we also asked students to outline how much these extra costs were. The campaign spoke to over 200 students face to face, who identified over 500 items that were paid for out of students’ pockets. Overwhelmingly, books and printing costs were the two most popular items of expenditure. On average, University of Huddersfield students pay £133 on books each year and £43 on printing. Both these costs of course increase/decrease radically dependent on the type of programme a student is on. The results from this consultation echo some established national trends which students across the UK are facing. Field trips, conferences, lab coats, printing – NUS research shows that students right across the country are paying out large sums of money on top of their tuition fees. What is just as worrying is that the majority of students know nothing about these additional expenditures until enrolling at University. It is unfair that in many subjects it is possible for a student to spend more money on resources and materials to get a better grade. It is unacceptable that students are required to pay additional sums of money for items and services which are essential to succeeding academically. At the same time, it is acknowledged that the current course costs policy of the institution is generally quite comprehensive and fair. That said, students are clearly unhappy about their financial position as a result of extra costs, and therefore the Union believes there is room for improvement. This report contains a number of recommendations that we believe would have significant positive impact on students’ lives, and ultimately, improve satisfaction scores with University of Huddersfield courses.

Josh Elderfield Vice President Education


2. Statement of Principle In the publication An Education Manifesto for Change, the Students’ Union set out a number of key principles that should shape higher education for students at the University of Huddersfield:

We believe in a higher education sector that is characterised by five key principles: 1. Public: a sector that recognises the role of higher education as a public good, where the benefit of further study adds value not just to the individual, but society in general. 2. Transformative: a sector that makes a positive impact on peoples’ lives, and gives students the skills and knowledge to develop both personally and professionally. 3. Responsive: a sector that not only adapts to different political, economic,

sociological and technological expectations, but helps to shape them. Higher education should be at the forefront of shaping public debate and discussion.

4. Collaborative: a sector that champions the approach of genuine partnership between the academy and student body, recognising students as co-producers of knowledge. 5. Holistic: a sector that recognises the wider student experience as important, not just

what happens in the classroom.

Students at Huddersfield deserve a higher education experience that: •  Respects and engages them as genuine partners in their learning development •  Develops their critical thinking skills •  Establishes a platform for lifelong learning and professional development •  Provides subject specific knowledge and transferrable skills relevant to the programme •  Prepares them for a career beyond their education •  Supports and develops them as active, responsible citizens


To deliver this, the University of Huddersfield should provide: •  High quality learning environments fit for students •  A high quality staff team actively engaged in knowledge transfer “I wouldn’t have •  Teachers who consistently inspire, stretch and motivate come to university their students if I knew it would •  Course content that is relevant, engaging and inspiring cost this much” •  Formative and summative assessment that is linked to constructive feedback STUDENT FEEDBACK •  Curriculums that enable and encourage holistic selfdirected learning •  A platform to engage students as partners in the learning experience Alongside this, we must acknowledge the reality of the environment in which we operate: one where students pay tuition fees and the burden of cost is now shared between the individual and the state. On this basis, we start from the following three propositions:

The costs of any programme of study: •  If something is essential to the programme of study, the cost should be included in the tuition fee paid by the students •  If something is complementary to programme of study but not essential, then this cost should at least be highlighted and published up front •  Both the University and Students’ Union have a responsibility to make student life as affordable as possible 


3. Background Information 3.1 The link between wellbeing and student finances The NUS report Pound in Your Pocket report provides some useful findings regarding the link between student finances (of which course costs are a growing area), and general student wellbeing. These are summarised as:

1. There are clear associations between financial support policy and practice, student wellbeing, socio-economic background and retention 2. Financial difficulties are pushing many students to the brink of dropping out 3. Around a third of students across all groups report negatively on their wellbeing, on

indicators such as ‘ability to meet the cost of basic expenses like rent and bills’ and ‘ability to concentrate on studies without worrying about finances’

4. Even relatively small levels of debt (over £1000) in the form of bank loans, credit cards or high risk borrowing like pay-day-lenders and cheque cashers are strongly associated with poor student wellbeing 5. Excessive working hours are associated with poor wellbeing and with coming from areas with low higher education participation rates 6. Access to financial support from the family has a significant association with both wellbeing and progression to further study


7. Students across all groups want more cash support such as loans, grants and

bursaries, with a high frequency of payments, either weekly or monthly depending on level of study

8. Course related costs are prevalent, expensive and often concealed: there is a clear

association between high course costs and low wellbeing

9. High levels of accommodation and transport costs are associated with reduced wellbeing 10. Adults (19+) in FE, older students in HE, NHS funded students, student parents and disabled students appear to be under particular financial strain

3.2 Some national context In 2011, NUS began collecting data on course costs for their own hidden course costs campaign. A total of 71 students’ unions took part in the survey; including Huddersfield, of which 22 gave detailed figures of which costs were included in an institution’s tuition fee and which costs were additional to fees. This national context serves as a useful map to show where the University of Huddersfield fairs in comparison to other institutions on the matter. For example, it shows that the course costs most likely to be included in an institution’s tuition fees were course-related sports facilities, although still only around a third of institutions provided these facilities without additional cost. The least likely are musical instrument hire.


Some of the most surprising costs to be left out of tuition fees by institutions were those which were compulsory for progression in the course. Bench fees (essential for law students) and DBS checks essential for students in health, teaching, and other professional programmes, were covered by only 17% of institutions. It also found that the majority of students had paid for materials, activities or other costs associated with completing their programme of study, for example software and physical materials for those on graphics based programmes.

“A rough estimate of the yearly costs would have been beneficial” STUDENT FEEDBACK

In other more positive news, there were also some examples of best practise.

1. Coventry University includes the cost of all core textbooks and printing credit as

part of the tuition fee

2. Middlesex University now also includes printing credit as part of their fee 3. Liverpool John Moore University buy all first year students a three year NUS

Extra Card

4. York St John University give every 1st year student a free NUS Extra Card and £10

printing on arrival

5. Manchester Met University offer eligible students a defined “student support package” with £3,000 on a ‘Met Card’ to spend at University outlets

6. University of Leicester provides free lab coats, safety glasses and all field trips are included in tuition fees

7. University of Birmingham give all students £20 of printer credits for free each term 8. University of Liverpool give all students free printer credits for completing the NSS 9. Northumbria University include all DBS checks, field trips and all professional body fees required for programmes in their tuition fees


4. Our Methodology The data collection took place on the week commencing 2 December and included Exec Officers and Union Councillors going to different locations across campus talking to students and asking them to fill in our extra course costs cards. The cards asked for them to include any item they have had to pay for towards their course and then left a section for open comments. Over the week we received over 580 individual submissions from students, with Officers and SU staff spending over 20 hours engaging with students.

Over the week we also had quite a bit of participation from students via social media, particularly twitter. Below is a selection of some of the messages we received: @charlcharlcharl @JoshElderfield @huddersfieldSU printing, drawing/paint materials, glue/tape, paper, good qual sketchbooks, yarn ... never ending #textiles @_katylindberg @huddersfieldSU books! #coursecosts @katylindberg @huddersfieldSU and printing costs add up! #coursecosts @glassesgirl3 @huddersfieldsu funding a final major project was tricky - the more you had to spend the better the project and grade you got!

Moreover, we believe that the campaign also opened up a discussion within the student body about extra costs and how we can work together to make university affordable for all students. We had a great response from students and a keen interest to hear more about the findings and the campaign.


5. Our Results & Big Ideas for Change With over 500 individual costs submitted over the course of the week, we then undertook a piece of thematic coding, and grouped them into a number of main headings: Additional costs faced by students

It is clear that books, printing and course materials make up the vast majority of costs faced by students on top of their tuition fees. However, if you combine travel and parking into a single field, this jumps into second place – demonstrating how much of an issue this is for students. Overall then, the majority of additional costs are associated with academic issues: Academic related vs non academic related costs

On an individual level, the average costs faced by students on an annual basis are calculated as: Average amount spent on books by students: Average amount spent on printing: Average amount spent on art materials :

£133 per year £43 per year £382 per year


We also received a number of free text comments, with some examples: “Printing should be free! Graphic design is my course and I have to pay for my own art supplies which is ridiculous.” “A student car park is vital and food is too expensive.” “Printing should be cheaper or free.” “Bursaries should be given to us at the beginning of the academic year to buy books.” “Student car park.”

Our Key Recommendations: Based on these broad results, we have come up with a list of manageable changes that we believe would have significant positive impact for students.

5.1 The University’s own policy states that ‘no additional charge is made for compulsory aspects of learning’ However, it is clear from our own research that there is confusion as to how this is implemented at a course level. We recommend that: “I know that other

•  The wording of the policy is re-examined, and that courses that are more a formal communication is sent from the University arts based have to pay a lot more” Senior Management Team to colleagues clarifying the University’s position STUDENT FEEDBACK •  This restatement should coincide with a full University audit of extra course costs, identifying where specific issues have developed. •  The Students’ Union should then work with Course Reps at a local level to ensure the policy is adhered to •  This restatement and audit should accompany any announcement on changes to home/EU undergraduate tuition fees

5.2 The University should provide all scholarship support in the form of cash bursaries

rather than fee-waivers, allowing students to access the benefits when they most need them.


Further Recommendations: 5.3 In cases where students are required to purchase consumable materials for large projects (where the norm is for the student to retain the product), the academic department should develop a bulk purchase approach, allowing students access to discounted prices. This is particularly important for students on art/design related courses. 5.4 The University should introduce a fixed amount of free printing for students on all courses, recognising the cost as an essential requirement for effective study. 5.5 The University should conduct a formal review of student transport, and implement a real solution for student car parking – the University’s principal customers. This could include a formal partnership with Kirklees Council, or alternative arrangements regarding park and ride. 5.6 The University should develop a system where students can bulk purchase hot meals

in their catering outlets up front, giving discounts where appropriate. Systems like this have already been successfully implemented in other HEIs across the UK.

5.7 The University should provide every new student with an NUS Extra card at the point of registration, giving them access to associated discounts and providing a strong marketing angle for the student recruitment team. 5.8 The University should provide all students with a free voucher for language tuition,

mirroring a scheme already in place at a number of other HEIs.

5.9 Given the desire to increase the support available for PGR students, the University should establish a central scholarship fund for students to bid for money to cover research/conference expenses. Alternatively, a policy could be implemented that mandates all individual Schools to administer a similar scheme. 5.10 The Students’ Union should develop a solution to facilitate second hand book sales on campus. Work should be undertaken to uncover how this can best be conducted online.

5.11 Every programme of study should have a clearly defined section in the prospectus that explicitly outlines the additional costs that students will face.

Josh Elderfield Vice President (Education) April 2014


Extra Course Costs Report