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Opinion | UOB's tuition fee calculations hurts their Think Big Scholars

The University of Bristol's international fee increase have repercussions for everyone. Faniki Deche dives into how serious these repercussions can be for scholarship students like himself.

By Faniki Deche, Politics and International Relations, Second Year

While the University of Bristol provides the 'Think Big Scholarship' for its international students; it fails to account for such students when setting future fees, leaving them to pay a disproportionately higher amount.

It's no secret that international tuition fees are significantly higher than locals and that they are likely to increase annually, this is where scholarships come in. They identify prospective international students and provide them with financial subsidies to help them come and study. Thankfully, the University provides such scholarships like the Think Big undergraduate awards which are worth £5,000-£10,000 off tuition fees annually (for students beginning 22/23). This is helpful because instead of paying almost three times the amount as locals, internationals now pay similar to the local fee. But, this situation only exists in first year. When you get to second year the University ironically turns the scholarship, at least the Think Big undergraduate awards, into a financial burden for its recipients.

It is well known that international fees go up every year and do not remain at a set price for the duration of internationals degrees. The University on their website has told international students beginning 22/23 to budget “for up to a 5% increase per year.” And for those beginning 23/24 they say, “You should budget for an increase of up to 8% each year.”

University of Bristol's warning for international students to expect a 5% increase per year// Image Courtesy: The University of Bristol

This year the University have increased fees by a flat £1,000 for students under the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law. Initially this doesn’t seem to be a problem, if you were an international that paid the full amount (£21,100) as the £1,000 increase represents a 4.7% increase which is less than the 5% they were told to budget for. But, if you were a recipient of the £10,000 Think Big undergraduate award which meant that you paid £11,100 then this £1,000 increase is not 4.7% Instead it is a 9% increase and almost double the amount recommended to budget for. The same problem also occurs if you were a recipient of the £5,000 Think Big undergraduate award. That £1,000 increase represents a 6% jump which is still larger than the 5% that the University themselves said to budget for.

This is simple math. If you give some who pays £2 a one pound increase then you have increased it by 50% but if you give a person that pays £100 a one pound increase then that is just an increase of 1% to them. Simply put this £1,000 increase creates more of an impact for scholarship recipients than to full tuition fee payers.

It's not rocket science to know that students who apply for scholarships do it for their financial benefits. University is expensive and scholarships offer the best avenue to be able to attend. It gives students who otherwise cannot pay such high fees, a shot to still take the University route. So naturally these students are likely to struggle to pay £1,000 more than the students who have already demonstrated that they can pay £20,000 and above.

University of Bristol's Think Big scholarships website// Image Courtesy: The University of Bristol

It would make more sense if the scholarship was from an external body, but the Think Big scholarship is very intimately tied to the University. Considering how the scholarship has been advertised they surely ought to have considered these students in their latest fee calculations.

What makes this more outrageous is the lack of communication. The University email students with figures and quickly ask for payment without explaining increased fees. Furthermore, the University's website saying we should budget for a 5% jump makes no remarks about students on scholarships. In fact, there’s nothing about scholarship students at all. So come second year and you get one hell of a nasty shock! Personally, I am a recipient of the £10,000 award and this scholarship has greatly helped in me studying here in the first place. Despite this 9% hike in fees, I am still able to attend the University, but it is entirely possible other students might not. The University telling students to budget for 5% and then giving an increase of 9% is shocking and could leave a lot of students in positions where they are unable to pay.

The University of Bristol needs to consider their scholarship students during fee calculations and set fees for them that meets the 5% increase quota. Thinking about the contexts of their scholarship awardees is a key part of awarding scholarships in the first place. The University of Bristol are closely tied to Think Big and they advertise it extensively but they’ve got to make it mean something. Currently it is just a token gesture that potentially does more harm than good to its recipients.

Epigram reached out to the university for a response about the international tuition fee increase. A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “Money should not be a barrier to education, which is why each year we help thousands of students through our scholarship and bursary schemes.

“We are proud that our Think Big Scholarship provides £3million-worth of support every year to help our international students receive a world-class education. This financial support is available throughout their time as a student with us.

“Annual fee increases for international students are kept as low as possible. They are benchmarked against fellow Russell Group universities and are based on inflationary pressures and the costs incurred in running a university known for teaching and research excellence.

“If international students need additional support or are confused about their course fees, we would urge them to contact the University for support and advice.”

Feature Image: Annabel Lee-Ellis

What do you think about the fee increase? Do you think it's fair to our Big Think scholars? Tell us @epigrampaper