Over 145,000 people have signed a petition calling on the British government to reduce university tuition fees due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the appeal has attracted over 100,000 signatures, Parliament must now consider it for a debate, and the government must issue a response.
The petition on the UK Parliament website says fees should be reduced from £9,250 to £3,000, and asks the government to consider holding parliamentary debates between MPs and university students, postgraduates, college students, those from poorer backgrounds and those with disabilities.
This would “allow students to voice their opinions and concerns about tuition fees of £9,250 a year which are too high, particularly as grants have been removed”, the petition reads.
At the time of publication, the petition had already been signed by 145,084 people. There have been an increasing number of calls to scrap tuition fees as the pandemic has continued to disrupt higher education and forced teaching to move online.
According to national lockdown rules introduced on Monday, students are advised to remain at home and start their term remotely – despite the fact that many will have already signed contracts for their university accommodation.
At a Downing Street coronavirus press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked students “for the sacrifice you are making in staying away from university”.
He added: “We will be looking very carefully at what is happening to students as a result of the fact their courses have been postponed and the absence of their tuition.”
“What we hope is that they will get online learning that will allow them to continue with their degree courses, but clearly there are going to be issues to do with the cost of their accommodation that we will have to look at as a government and see what arrangements the universities are making to deal with the reasonable concerns of many students.”
Labour MPs Richard Burgon, Claudia Webbe and Bell Ribeiro-Addy have all tweeted in support of cancelling fees, with Ribeiro-Addy adding: “Let's start treating education as a right rather than a commodity.”