Institutions must be upfront about students' hidden costs

Monday 18-03-2019 - 01:00

We're calling on institutions to be upfront about the hidden costs for students applying for a university or college course, ensuring mandatory costs are met by institutions, not students.

Hidden costs are additional to the advertised costs of study such as accommodation, enrolment, or tuition fees and many include field trips abroad, or the mandatory use of expensive material in assessments. Students should have access to support funds to be able cover these costs, so they can take part and reach their full potential.

The “Getting in and getting on: hidden costs” briefing released today to NUS members follows on from the findings of NUS’ 2018 Poverty Commission report that states students from a working-class background face a “poverty premium” often paying higher direct and indirect costs to access post-16 education.

These indirect or hidden costs are not a new problem; they have been widely identified as a persistent problem for students. NUS and students’ unions have been campaigning to end hidden costs for years, and many students’ unions across the UK have done amazing work to eradicate hidden costs for students.


National President, Shakira Martin, said:

“It’s a scandal that students pay so much to get into education, only to arrive and find they have to fork out more and more cash in order to simply take part in core course activities.”

“We believe that if someone is enrolled on a programme and raised the cash to cover the fees, the living costs, and whatever other costs exist in their life, they should be able to participate fully in the course regardless of how much disposable cash they have left over.”

“NUS research has found that the hidden costs of studying are having a significant impact on working class students’ wellbeing and ability to study, despite the Competition and Markets Authority describing hidden costs as unfair practice.”

“After years of defunding, we’re now seeing colleges using hidden course costs as a means of raising additional revenue. Abolishing these charges shouldn’t mean that colleges can’t afford to offer excellent education and support services to students. The Education Funding Agency has stated that it expects these costs to be met by discretionary bursaries, NUS believes this is wrong – bursaries and support for students do not equate to funding colleges.”


We are publishing two guides to help you campaign to end hidden course costs and for better, fairer transport.

For more information, visit the Poverty Commission campaign.



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