Durham students get billed 5p a page

Some 500 students at the University of Durham protested this week against increases in course costs that will continue to hit those from poorer families hardest.

Whereas tuition fees are means-tested, all students are charged course costs regardless of their ability to pay. The university has slashed the number of coursework pages it allows each student to print for free, charging them 5p per sheet once the 200-page allowance has been reached.

The university also plans to increase the college residency charge by an inflation-busting 5 per cent next year.

David Ellams, joint president of Durham Students' Union, said: "We object to the way in which costs are being transferred to the student. Universities are charging by the back door - it's the same principle as top-up fees."

Cuts in government funding per student mean that there are proportionally fewer books in the library than previously, according to Mr Ellams. The costs fall on the students, who are forced to buy their own copies of textbooks or to pay to photocopy relevant chapters.

Similarly, academic departments used to allow lecturers to photocopy lecture notes for students. Now such information is put on the web and if a student prints it out, the printing is charged to the student's account.

A university spokesman said: "We don't feel that sharing the costs of printing with students is unreasonable.

"It illustrates how the university is trying to maintain standards on a tight budget and, in order to keep going, we have to pass on some costs to the students. The University of Durham is not alone in doing that."

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