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Students pay hundreds in hidden additional course fees

By Eleanor Ideson Feb 8, 2019
When my housemate did not have to work, but she was still able to afford endless amounts of ASOS parcels because her loan allowed her to do so. Photo: Rex Features

KU students are angry after having to pay hundreds of pounds in additional costs that were not made clear to them when they applied for their courses. 

Although Kingston University’s website and prospectus has been updated to comply with the Competition and Markets Authority guidelines, The River has found evidence that as recently as last year, the additional costs section was inaccurate leading students to be misinformed when choosing their courses. 

According to consumers association Which?, misleading omissions are banned under the Consumer Protection and Unfair Trading Regulations, which include students being told there are no additional costs when in fact, there are.

In the Which? University Student Survey 2018, it found that on average the amount of costs that courses do not cover include £119 in textbooks, £97 on special software such as programmes or apps, £55 on materials and £20 on report binding. 

Kingston University’s student union recently carried out a survey of their own that received over 90 responses on additional costs from students across the university and hope to expand their research further soon.

A spokesperson from the KU student union said: “We are working with the University to make sure all course costs are properly advertised. If the University fails to address this reasonable request, we will take things further and escalate the issue.

“Our preliminary research has shown that this issue goes beyond KSA and affects multiple faculties and therefore it should be addressed promptly.” 

Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), it is “unlawful to mislead students by failing to give them information they need to make an informed decision, such as about what and where to study”.

“This type of course-related information is likely to be total course costs, including other extra costs students are likely to incur, for example for field trips, equipment, materials, bench fees or studio hire.”

It goes on to say how particularly important it is to highlight any course costs that are likely to have direct impact on the outcome of students’ academic success.

Third-year photography student Georgia Davey said: “Obviously because I’m on a creative course I knew printing costs and props for my work would be paid for from my own pocket, but it’s more than I would have expected.

“For one project brief I’d have to spend around £50 to £70 for library printing, £120 to £200 on professional prints and I’ve estimated around £500 on shoot props and backdrops, etc – so a single submission can be around £800 altogether.”

When Davey joined the course in 2016 there was no mention of additional fees on the University’s website.

 A NUS spokesperson said: “Universities should follow consumer law and this means being transparent about essential costs. Our Poverty Commission research highlighted hidden course costs are a real barrier to the participation of working class students. 

“We support Kingston Students’ Union in its campaign on the hidden course costs at their institution, and encourage Kingston students to speak to their students’ union to find out more.”

Kingston School of Art students have been particularly affected with additional costs not being clear or accurate on the University’s website at the time of enrolment, leading them to be shocked when they started studying.

Third-year architecture student, Giulia Musette, said: “Printing is the main problem. I’d say we probably spend £500, maybe £600 per year.

In 2018, the Office of Students and student unions across the UK carried out research and found that a third of undergraduate students thought that ‘other charges/fees/costs’ did not represent good value for money.

Knight’s Park Officer and graphic design student, Elliot Spiers, said: “If you want to print a poster I get that you should pay for that, but when it’s part of your course, that’s when you shouldn’t. It’s a hidden course cost.”

Although Kingston University has updated their website and prospectus recently to include a clear and accurate breakdown of additional costs, students feel it is unfair that this information was not accurate when they enrolled.

A Kingston University spokesperson said: “The University’s Information and Technology Services Directorate works closely with the Union of Kingston Students, libraries and the University’s Sustainability Team to ensure printing costs can be kept as low as possible.

“Kingston School of Art has strong links with a range of industry experts and partners and a good track record of securing additional funding to support students with the costs of project work. 

“Kingston University is committed to providing prospective students with information that is clear and relevant to help them make the best possible choices about the courses it offers and the costs entailed. 

“Following conversations, information on website course pages and in the prospectus was updated to better reflect the cost of materials for students taking studio-based subjects.

“The University takes its obligations under consumer protection law very seriously and has worked closely with the CMA to ensure it complies with these regulations.”


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