Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that universities not returning to face-to-face teaching this year should not be charging students full fees.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Mr Williamson said he wanted to see all universities returning to face-to-face teaching and that the Government had made it clear that universities can do so. Talking to Sky News, Mr Williamson said “I think if universities are not delivering what students expect, then actually they shouldn’t be charging the full fees.”
A number of universities have indicated they will continue with online learning instead of face-to-face lectures and seminars, despite the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. Other universities are to continue mandating the wearing of face coverings in learning settings.
The maximum level of tuition fees is set by the Government and currently stands at £9,250. Thousands of students have expressed anger and concern over the last year that they have had to pay full price for often very limited online learning, while facing limits on university life in general as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
When questioned about what the government could do about universities charging full price and not delivering face-to-face teaching this coming academic year, Mr Williamson said that universities are ‘autonomous’ but indicated the Office for Students would have powers as the regulator to take some action.
Mr Williamson was speaking on A-Level Results day, in which record numbers of young people have been awarded the top grades, in a year where exams were cancelled again due to the pandemic.
Labour have criticised the Government and have called for a ‘next step guarantee’ for everyone receiving results. Shadow Schools Minister Peter Kyle said, “teachers have done an incredible job but the Government’s measly recovery plan will see half a million students leave school this summer without any support to recover lost learning or boost their wellbeing.”