Field trip charges fall away under higher tuition fees

Universities are increasingly paying for student field trips after this year's hike in student fees, a new report suggests.

December 24, 2012

Academics from the universities of Chester and Reading quizzed staff at 24 higher education institutions about how fieldwork connected to geography, biosciences or earth and environmental sciences departments was funded.

Three-quarters of academics working in geography, earth and environmental sciences said there had been a shift towards making all compulsory fieldwork free to students, according to the report for the Higher Education Academy, titled The Future of Higher Education Fieldwork in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Of the programmes discussed in the report, six offered free residential fieldwork in 2011-12 if the fieldwork was deemed compulsory, while 23 programmes charged students between 20 and 100 per cent of the costs of the trip.

However, many lecturers said their departments wanted to phase out charges for students in 2012-13.

Of the 23 programmes charging a fee in 2011-12, seven planned to remove all charges and 11 proposed to remove some of the charges. None intended to increase fees, while four planned to maintain costs at their current level and one programme had not yet made a decision.

The six programmes which already offered free fieldwork trips to students in 2011-12 also had no plans to levy charges on students in coming years, the report says.

"The recent change in higher education funding has prompted departments to re-evaluate their budget allocations and they are revising the way in which student learning is supported and financed," said one of the researchers, Alice Mauchline, a research fellow at Reading's School of Agriculture, Policy and Development.

The findings follow last year's campaign by the National Union of Students to end "hidden" course costs. The NUS argued all course costs should be declared in a department's promotional literature.

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