UBC abandons student surveys in tuition consultation process

On March 12, UBC’s Board of Governors announced it would no longer conduct annual tuition consultations with students, citing repeated student frustration with the survey's results and perceived inaction.

A written update, presented by VP Students Ainsley Carry, stated that “surveying the entire student body does not add information to the Tuition Consultation process.” Moving forward, the tuition engagement process will be limited to “elected student leadership” in the AMS, GSS and UBC’s Student Union Okanagan (SUO). There is no mention of consultation with faculty undergraduate societies.

The university highlighted that, per its Tuition Consultation Policy (LR4), consultation is only required with “elected student representatives,” and the current decision to consult the larger student body goes above and beyond what is mandated by the policy.

“The current consultation process followed by sub-inflationary increases only results in frustration among the general student body,” read the Board document.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Student Governor Kareem Hassib voiced support for the previous approach and expressed disappointment with the change.

“The university, in my opinion, made a good decision to expand that to consultation to the whole campus and to students at large.”

Hassib added that this change was not a decision that was voted upon.

“This was simply an information item for the committee that the university administration was letting us know is taking place and it was just for discussion.”

According to the policy, the tuition engagement process is meant to facilitate better understanding of the university’s budget process, the priorities of elected student representatives, student financial priorities and discuss any tuition fee proposals.

Hassib said this change would prevent students from being able to formally express dissatisfaction with the university “just because they keep coming to the same conclusion, which is not one that is necessarily flattering to the university.”

In the new approach, the university “may consult more broadly with the general student body” only if appropriate to do so.

The tuition survey has been a source of frustration among students for years and many have voiced opposition against the increases in tuition.

“I think that whether or not the administration listens to the results of the survey isn't really the point.” says Hassib. “I think the point is that it is evidence that student leaders and student advocates can point to and say whenever the university makes a decision that financially hurts students, you can say ‘hey, this is clearly as evidenced by quite comprehensive quantitative data.’”

The results from the tuition consultation surveys are what pushed Hassib to vote against a tuition increase in December.

The tuition engagement update cites existing surveys like the Undergraduate Experience Survey (UES) for being able to understand student needs, which “allows for a holistic and comprehensive approach to engage with the student body.”

However, Hassib disagrees with the tuition survey not being a necessary part of the university’s other institutional surveys.

“The tuition consultation survey in tandem with all of that other data collected by both the University and the AMS really works together to show that when you're raising tuition, you are putting extra strain on these students.”

“When you lose the tuition survey, you lose a crucial part of your ability to effectively advocate against things like tuition increases and other decisions that hurt students.”