In recent weeks, Imperial College has announced the introduction of an £80 application fee for all MSc and MRes courses. In the past, it was free to apply to most postgraduate programmes, with the only exception being the MBA courses at the Business School.
We acknowledge the College’s arguments for the fee introduction, understanding that this fee will help cover the costs associated with admissions and might reduce the number of applications and hence the administrative burden.
However, we have serious concerns about what implications this could have:
- The fee will act as a barrier to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, going directly against the College's widening participation efforts, and unfairly affecting applicants with lower incomes.
- The College have included a waiver process, but failed to consult any students on the procedure before it was published.
- The waiver process will cause delays in applications which could have a detrimental effect on the success of these applications where courses give offers on a rolling basis.
- It is unclear if the College are investing more money to improve the application process to provide a smoother service for fee paying applicants.
When introducing this fee, the College compared us to other universities and argued that it will put us on a par with institutions already charging for application to postgraduate courses. However, the fee is not a standard across the sector; out of the 26 Russell Group universities, only 12 other universities are charging application fees; 4 of these only charge for courses in the Business School. The £80 fee is also on the upper end of the spectrum, with only King’s College London, LSE and UCL charging the same amount or higher. What’s more, Oxford University has recently announced their plans to scrap their £75 application fee altogether.
What the Union is doing
We were not informed of this fee until after the decision to introduce it had already been made. On the premise that the application fee is not in favour of the students we represent, we have been opposing its introduction in college meetings about education and equality and diversity, as well as in informal discussions with senior college staff members.
We want to know your opinion on this topic. We have put together a short survey to find out what you think of the fee introduction, if you think it is fair and whether it might affect your decision to apply for a MSc or MRes course at Imperial. We will use this survey to collate your views, and lobby the College on your behalf.