STUDENTS in West Yorkshire have described feeling "ignored" and "neglected" amid online backlash against the cost of higher education.

University tuition fees in England - £9250 per academic year - have long been at the centre of debate since they were increased by then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in July 2015.

The fees had been capped at £9,000 since 2012 but were raised to match inflation from the 2017–2018 academic year onwards.

But in an unprecedented time which sees students learn under the restrictions of a worldwide pandemic, many young people - including those from Bradford - have spoken up.

19-year-old Keyhan Modaressi Chahardehi, a Broadcast Media Technologies student at Leeds Beckett University who lives in Bradford city centre, believes universities should reduce fees.

Keyhan said: "Even though I chose to live at home whilst attending uni, I was hoping to get a real experience to actually going there every week. I went in a few times but most of it was online. I struggled with my laptop since it wasn't really designed for online classes so I had to get a new one.

"9k a year is not worth it at all for online classes. They should reduce that because we aren't experiencing a real uni life and lecture on campus. 9k a year, for what? Not being able to work with other students on projects? Not being able to go in class and speak to teachers and have all classes online and split into groups where we cant even talk to anyone face to face?

"Just reduce the money to what it should cost for any online class. 9k is too much and the money that's saved when reduced can help others to provide for themselves and the family rather than putting us all into debt."

21-year-old Haleema Mahmood, a second year chemistry student at the University of Bradford, said: "I have found it to be a period of stress and uncertainty. We are expected to produce work of the same standard whilst have to essentially teach ourselves the whole content. It's extremely unfair that we are paying a tuition fee of £9,250 for Zoom lectures and are unable to attend any lab sessions. I understand this may be as confusing for our lecturers and academics, but it doesn't make sense that we are required to still sit our exams under these conditions and are being overwhelmed with assignments.

"In fact, in order to test our understanding we are receiving more work to complete than we had originally expected. We are being neglected as uni students and neither the students or lecturers are being adequately supported. As Chemistry students, we have not been able to attend our weekly lab sessions. However, we are still expected to write up lab reports for these experiments, as it is essential knowledge for our course. As someone who is very passionate about chemistry and is working hard for her career goals, I am finding this whole experience disheartening and discouraging."

Hafsah Syeed, a 21-year-old psychology student at the University of Bradford, expressed gratitude about her lecturers who work "so hard" to provide online lecturers.

The Heaton resident said: "They're doing a lot of work at home, they have worked so hard it's unbelievable. They still do as much as they can. But the quality of it is not the same. We're not getting that first hand experience. It's lost its touch. Even if it's not a full refund, we should be getting some money back."

Mahnoor Akhlaq, a final year journalism student University of Leeds from Girlington, first raised her concerns about the cost of university in April last year following strikes and growing limits on their lessons due to coronavirus.

She said: "My lecturers have been really supportive so far and I can’t fault them in any way. There’s not a thing I would change with how they’ve handled things and it’s not their fault. But I still feel stressed knowing I'm so close to graduating and I might not be 'employer ready' because half my degree took place online so will all this debt be worth it?"

The University of Bradford said it "understands that this is a difficult and extraordinary time for our students" but will "continue to provide a full, high quality learning, teaching and research programme". It said "tuition fees enable us to continue to do this effectively".

A Leeds Beckett University spokesperson said it is “determined that no student’s academic outcome will be negatively affected by Covid-19” and that it supports students with a number of financial support schemes, counselling and wellbeing support.

While the University of Leeds said “the health and wellbeing of students is [its] top priority” and it is working with students who need to access support.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We understand this has been a very difficult time for students, which is why we have prioritised their education and wellbeing throughout the pandemic. We recently announced up to £20 million to help students most in need of support in these exceptional circumstances.

"Universities are responsible for their fees, but the Government has been clear if universities want to continue charging the maximum amount permitted, they are expected to maintain quality and academic standards and the quantity of tuition should not drop.

"They should seek to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, can access their studies remotely.

"We also encourage landlords to be fair and consider students’ interests in their decisions about rent charges."