Three quarters of univeristies to charge maximum fee
The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has announced that every one of the 123 universities and university colleges in England will increase its tuition fees to £6,000 or more. Universities had until midnight on Tuesday 19 April to submit their plans to the watchdog under the Coalition government’s higher education (HE) reform.
Universities in England will be allowed to increase tuition fees up to £9,000 per year from autumn 2012 subject to the approval of OFFA, raising the cap from its current level of £3,290, amid major budget cuts to institutions' teaching budgets.
The controversial policy, backed by parliament in December 2010, sparked angry street protests from members of the public. It was developed as the government's response to a review of HE funding by former BP chief Lord Browne, and was promoted principally by universities minister David Willetts.
On Wednesday, OFFA would not disclose how many of the institutions want to charge full-time undergraduate students the maximum fee of £9,000. However, research by the Guardian has revealed that almost three-quarters of English universities and university colleges intend to charge this amount for at least some of their courses.
The figures will come as an embarrassment to David Willetts MP, who predicted that universities would charge different levels of fees and that the average would be £7,500. He later revised that to £8,000. The Guardian's figures show the average fee of those that have made their plans public currently stands at £8,629.73.
The universities MP wrote in the Guardian on Monday: “If you look behind the headlines, the reality is that lots of students will not face fees anything close to £9,000 a year. Of course, students don't pay upfront and their monthly repayments as graduates are going to be lower than they are now. Financial means cannot be an obstacle to people fulfilling their academic and career goals.”
The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) claimed this week that the government's HE policy is in turmoil and recommend government listen to the growing number of voices urging it to rethink the reform or consider giving OFFA legal powers to regulate fees.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, added: “The government's fee regime is in complete disarray and its sums clearly do not add up. It quickly became clear that all English universities would have to charge more than £6,000 a year just to break even, following devastating funding cuts.”
Aaron Porter, the former National Union of Students’ 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.
“It is those young people with the ability and aspiration to go to university who are now at serious risk of paying a high price for ministers' miscalculations or having the door slammed in their faces.”
It has also emerged that overseas universities are redoubling their efforts to recruit English students to their universities.
Paul Loftus, managing director of i-studentgroup, which helps universities in the UK, Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand with their recruitment, said foreign universities were targeting the UK. "If overseas universities haven't started lifting their recruitment efforts to try to get British students, they are now."
Loftus said more British students than in the past were considering going abroad for university, in part because of higher fees.