Thursday 31 March 2011

More Universities to Charge Maximum Fees

Last month we reported that Exeter University had announced it will charge the maximum of £9000 tuition fees when new legislation allows them to do so in 2012.

Since then, a growing number of universities have declared similar intentions. Indeed, with 21 universities now having declared their fees for the 2012-13 year, it is obvious that fees at a maximum level will be the norm rather than an exception. This is in complete contrast to the comments of David Willets, the government's universities minister, who said only last month that maximum fees would only be charged in exceptional cases.

The list so far can be found on the BBC news website. It includes eight out of the 20 members of the elite Russell Group, with the remaining 12 members still to declare.

All 8 of the second tier "1994 Group" universities to have declared will be charging maximum fees.

Only four out of the 21 who have declared will be charging less than the maximum, all of these being former polytechnics or higher education colleges.

All universities charging maximum fees will have to provide special provision for applicant students from poorer families and a system of bursaries.

We have covered the protests against the rise in tuition fees here. And if you are an A-Level student thinking about university, but worried about the increasing costs, we offer some words of advice.

If, as now seems possible, nearly all universities charge the maximum £9000 fees, there could be serious consequences for our entire education system. Firstly, the number of young people who can afford university will fall. With a limited number of bursaries on offer, there is a danger that the universities system will become accessible only to a privileged minority of the population, with students from low and average income families simply unable to afford it.

Secondly, the universities may suffer themselves if the number of applicants falls. With vastly reduced grants from central government, universities will have to take cold decisions about which departments are attracting the required numbers of students, with the remainder facing severe cuts or even closure.

Finally, these government plans may begin to look like a step too far for the country as a whole. Keeping students in education beyond sixth form is vital to the success of British companies and the wider economy. It also provides our young people with a valuable experience that they cannot get in the workplace.

Are these prospects a part of the fairer Britain the coalition government wanted to achieve when it took office?

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