Sussex Uni law student leads call for tuition fee cuts as lectures move online

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COVID-19: Petition received almost 300 student signatures

A University of Sussex law student is leading the call for cuts to tuition fees as classes move online amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shanavi Dessai, 18, has written an open letter urging the university to consider course fee reductions for international students. Some, Dessai writes, pay upwards of £23,000 each year, which is substantially more than their British counterparts.

“I don’t feel like this is the education that we were promised and therefore does not match the amount we are paying,” Dessai, a first-year law student from India told this website, adding:

“I do agree that this is an exceptional situation. But at the same time, the university should acknowledge the plight of students considering we pay double the amount the domestic students are paying for the same content.”

In the letter, which has been signed by almost 300 Sussex Uni students, Dessai explains that in the second term they “barely had four weeks of in-person classes” due to the pandemic, and so the university’s decision to continue to apply tuition fees as “normal” fails to “acknowledge the various ways in which international students (undergraduate and postgraduate) are more adversely affected”.

The letter continues to outline the “different circumstances” facing international students.

The school’s closure has meant they are unable to access library resources and facilities, making it difficult to write term papers. They’ve had to modify their plans at short notice which for some “requires complete re-thinking and choosing a different option instead (e.g. projects instead of work placements)”.

The letter further states that international students are finding it “increasingly difficult to pay fees” due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, continuing:

“There is a differentiated impact for students coming from countries with weaker economies where the value of the currency has significantly dropped against the British pound… Many of us have lost part-time jobs which we depended on to fund a portion of tuition fees. On top of this, many of our parents have been furloughed, or are unable to work, further making it difficult to afford tuition. All this has led some of us to consider dropping out.”

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It adds that students who travelled to their home countries may not have access to the “requisite technology or sustained internet connections”. Zoom is banned in China, for example. Plus “students living in the Asia-Pacific or North and Latin American region have a significant time difference which would significantly affect their performance and attendance”.

A University of Sussex spokesperson insists normal tuition fees will continue to apply for all students in line with government guidance.

“Although the mode of delivery has moved online, the university is continuing to provide all of its students with their courses and learning outcomes,” the spokesperson said.

“That said, we are aware the move to online learning may create additional challenges for students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. It’s for this reason the university continues to take into account the impact upon students due to the COVID-19 situation — and especially so for international students. We have written to all taught students to let them know the university will be applying a policy of ‘no detriment’ in the awarding of students grades for the year.”

Meanwhile, Dessai told Legal Cheek the response she’s received from fellow students has been overwhelming. “We have more and more students approaching us and encouraging us to proceed with this movement,” she said.

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Why? Professors still need to eat and the universities’ buildings are still in place and need maintenance. Does this student propose that universities should fire cleaners, catering and security to cut costs? This is very cruel and cynical, these people have families, credit debt etc.


That’s not the point. If you are paying over the odds for a service which has dramatically reduced and is not the same as what you initially signed up for and agreed to pay then why should you continue paying? It’s not the consumer’s fault and the university will have to manage like every other business. Are you still giving money to Pret for the morning coffee you no longer have? Are you still paying the tube driver for the tube you no longer take? I thought not.


The Pret / tube comparisons are ludicrous – the university is still teaching those students every day, providing them exactly the same service the students paid for. Pret is not sending your morning coffee to our home every morning and Tube drivers are not doing zoom calls with you while operating the train.

These students should better study a bit of contract law (and read their contracts with the uni) instead of making these pointless open letters.

Clapham Omnibus taker

Universities price online courses lower than “in-person” ones. I think its otherwise reasonable to match the proportion of the course that is being provided online to the price normally charged for an online course.

In any event, applying contractual principles there will be implied terms as to the quality of the service being provided; you can argue that this “same” service you mention falls below par in terms of quality.

Fact Check

No they don’t.

BPP Online GDL is the same price as the London Campus (£11500), and more expensive than their other locations (£9800).

ULaw iGDL is about the same price as the non-London locations (£9700ish) – granted, Bloomsbury/Moorgate are more expensive.

Nottingham Trent – full time GDL is £8700. The distance learning GDL is £4350 per year, for two years.

Online courses are almost never cheaper – the OU works out about 10k cheaper over a traditional Undergrad but the have very little bricks and mortar. Every other university run distance learning as a side hustle.


Not all courses provide the same or a cheaper fee for online classes. Maybe for your course in specific, it is more expensive.

However, for City LLM it’s very different fees. For online classes, you pay around £9k whereas going to university you pay around £13k.

Mandy K

Not all lecturers are continuing to give lectures. My son has one who said he would not be doing any lectures at the outset of Covid-19 as he apparantly doens’t have the technology at home. I’m really worried at the gaps my son will have in his knowledge when you couple this with the strikes at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020. Unfortunately, another lecturer has gone onto long term sick, so my son has two modules which are not being taught.


You beat me to it.


A fair point, though in this case (University of Sussex) staff seems to have been laid off regardless of whether or not the University’s income has changed post Covid-19.


But the income has changed a lot, even with payments from current students remaining intact – next year they are posed to hundreds of thousands of pounds because there will tens of thousands less foreign students in the UK (who are the main money making machine for the universities).

The authors of the petition are only making the situation even worse.

Mandy K

They don’t have to pay for electricity. Libraries are closed. Have the furloughed any staff? I can’t imagine much cleaning is needed when no one is there. People who had booked holidays are still getting refunded as they are no longer getting the service they paid for. The holiday companies still have to pay their staff (cleaners included). This is where the furlough scheme comes in.

Slightly Unsympathetic Sympathiser

If Universities were providing less of a service, I could maybe understand – but as far as I understand, they are still providing the same level of service (regardless of what the level of service was in the first place)?

Also, most online students (studying online because coronavirus hit) were paying the same prices anyway. I study the Online LPC with ULaw, and I am paying more than students at some campuses (but less than students at the London campuses). It would be a strange position if non-online students were suddenly paying less than online students for doing the same online course.

I sympathise that it is a position students did not want to be in, but I don’t feel that the arguments are very convincing, I’m afraid!


Presumably, the London campus students should be paying the same amount as you then, so that they are not treated less favorably?

By all means, people paying less should not get a benefit, but those paying more should be on a level playing field?


Your message makes no sense. The student quite rightly wants some sort of reduction in her fees, and I agree.

She paid for face to face teaching, she’s not getting it, and it’s not the same as being taught online.

Simple really.


Not so simple. It would be simple if university switched her to study online on a whim and without giving any reasons. Here it happened because of the necessity to save her life and, more importantly, other lives (elderly professors, security guards, parents of domestic students) under the government’s directions.

But I suppose you would not care and are protesting against the lockdown on the streets, like those guys in the US (judging by your comment).



No actually, of course I understand why she was switched to online studies… to protect lives / government guidelines.

But is it really that harsh for big money making universities to apply some deduction ? I mean would that cost lives?

I don’t protest… I’m to tired to protest.

But online teaching is not the same as face to face, it’s not a few days, we’re talking potentially 2/3 months….


Now actually partially agree. However, are the UK universities as money making as people think? Large ones with huge endowments (Oxbridge, main London unis and top of Russel Group) – for sure, they will be fine.

But other UK unis are now in a state of perfect storm: 1) next year they are posed to loose tens of millions of £££ because there will tens of thousands less foreign students, who are the main money making machine for the universities; 2) they are heavily in debt because in the last couple of years they overinvested bajillion of £££ in (often not really) necessary sports halls, libraries and student flats (some of which will be empty now); and 3) the government (which is now giving billions left and right) so far has refused to give them bailout, at least one requested by the unis.

Their prospects are really grim. Probably, in the end, government will bailout them but who knows. Hopefully this will be on condition that, like heads of all businesses, their vice chancellors & senior management reduce / return their £400,000+ salaries (which are often comparable to a partner of a decent law firm).


Let the weak wither. We have too many unis now.


I’m a student at Sussex. Would anyone in the profession be able to me what Sussex’s reputation is like in terms of employment etc?


I went to Sussex and know a couple people from who have secured a TC at SC/MC firms.



I have some bad news for you, son…

JD Equity P

Top bantz my old boy.


Degrees from unis that are pandering to their “customers” with idiotic “no detriment” degree marking are seriously devalued now.


You have treat them as one grade lower than what the degree says plus you have no measure of how they handle pressure. The savvy ones have deferred for a year, the rest are going to have to accept they will be hampered in the market.

Grand Duke Bruno

Agreed…..awards at this time will in future be tainted as ‘Covid-19 Degrees’.

Henry Bonsor

I’m not worried at all, I don’t think firms will realistically judge applicants in a bad light for something they had no control over. Plus, we are still going to receive our real grades. So if any other law students are reading this I would make sure you put down those grades on your CV.

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