19 Apr 2011

Most universities plan £9,000 tuition fees

As the deadline arrives for universities to tell the Office for Fair Access what tuition fees they aim to charge, a Channel 4 News map shows that the majority are looking at the maximum of £9,000.

What tuition fees will universities charge? (Getty)

When the Government won the right to treble university fees in December, despite student protests across the country, Universities Minister David Willetts said the “absolute limit” of £9,000 would only be charged in “exceptional circumstances”.

Universities themselves, however, had other ideas. Tuesday is the deadline for higher education institutions to submit what they want to charge to the funding watchdog, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) – and so far it seems as though the majority of universities are aiming to charge the maximum. They also have to submit plans to help poorer students, in order to justify charging more than £6,000.

The Channel 4 News map, below, shows which institutions want to charge what. The information has been gathered from user contributions, but is in line with information announced by the universities themselves.

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Our map shows an average cost of £8820.10 a year for students aiming for university and just six planning to charge less than £8,000: Southampton Solent, £7,800; St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, £8,000; Anglia Ruskin University, £8,000; University Campus Suffolk, £7,500 – £8,000; Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln, £7,500; and the University of Derby, £6,995 – £7,995.

This fits in with information gathered by the Times Higher Education Supplement, which has published a guide of fees for the academic year 2012-2013. Out of 57 universities, only 14 say they are planning to charge below the maximum.

The maximum fees figure does not take into account any scholarships or waivers for poorer students, and instead represents the headline fee level. It is also only a prospective figure from universities, as OFFA has the final say.

A spokesman from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told Channel 4 News: “No university can know for certain yet what it will charge from autumn 2012. Each university will need to show how they meet tough new conditions in an approved access agreement from the Director for Fair Access, if it wants to charge more than £6,000.

“Some universities have said they would like to charge £9,000 for some of their students but they have also proposed extensive fee waivers, while others have said they will charge significantly lower amounts. This means many students will pay less than the published price, and will subsequently borrow less.”

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MPs hope raising the maximum fees universities can charge from £3,290 a year to £9,000 will change how higher education is funded in England and provide a long-term, viable funding solution for cash-strapped institutions.

The fees are not an up-front charge, but will instead by loaned by the Government, under a similar system to the current student loans programme, and paid back once the students graduate and begin earning a salary.

But many fear that the headline numbers will deter poor students.

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Aaron Porter, NUS President, said: “When the Government forced these ill-considered plans through Parliament they claimed that fees above £6,000 would be the exception rather than rule, but that was quite clearly a pipe dream.

“Ministers have claimed that OFFA has the power to regulate fees, when in reality this process is nothing more than one of rubber stamping Vice Chancellors’ attempts to charge as much as they can get away with. With no one to stop them, universities are rushing to charge the maximum £9,000.

“Government ministers must take responsibility for the costly chaos they have created and take the entire scheme back to the drawing board before it causes irreparable damage to universities.”

Natasha Wynarczyk, Vice President of King’s College London Student Union, told Channel 4 News: “I’m not surprised – we were told £9,000 would be the exception but a similar thing happened last time fees went up.

“I think with all the cuts, the universities haven’t had a choice. They need the money to compete.”

But she said that people would be discouraged.

“I think the fees will put a lot of people off – it’s a lot of money and the amount of debt is massive. The leap from £3,000 to £9,000 is quite a massive leap,” she said.