Tuesday, April 19, 2011

'Most universities' want top fees

19 April 2011 Last updated at 02:47 GMT By Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent University students Most universities that have declared their intentions want to charge £9,000 on at least some degrees At least two-thirds of universities in England want to charge £9,000 a year for some or all courses, an updated BBC survey of tuition fee plans suggests.

The survey of 71 institutions suggests maximum fees will not be "exceptional" as the government had claimed.

It coincides with the deadline for universities to submit their fee plans for 2012 to the Office for Fair Access.

The government argues that fee waivers and cheaper degree courses in further education will lower the average cost.

Aaron Porter, the outgoing president of the National Union of Students, accused the government of causing "costly chaos" with its university reforms.

"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," said Mr Porter.

According to the BBC survey, based on 71 higher education institutions that have declared their plans, 47 want to charge £9,000 fees for some or all of their courses.

There are 39 universities which so far have indicated that they want to charge £9,000 for all courses.

Universities have now reached the point at which they have to submit their plans for tuition fees and for protecting access for poorer students when the upper limit on fees is increased in 2012.

But the full picture of tuition fees will not be known publicly until July, when the Office for Fair Access confirms the fees that it has approved for each university.

Funding fears

A higher level of tuition fee from its current capped level of £3,290 per year will mean a higher level of public funding for the up-front student loans.

And since the government had based its funding plans on an average fee of £7,500, there have been warnings of a "black hole" in the university budget.

But ministers have been confident that the average loan will be much lower than the headline figure for fees - and they reject any suggestion of a financial crisis.

Many universities are offering discounts for poorer students, in the form of fee waivers, and there are likely to be degree courses available from further education colleges which will be much cheaper.

Students at private universities will also be able to obtain loans, up to £6,000 per year, further pushing down the likely average student loan.

However, universities are still concerned about the possibility of further cuts and a reduction in the number of university places for students.

A White Paper setting out how higher education will be reformed in England is expected in the summer.

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