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Students could be facing a rise in tuition fees of up to £10,000 a year as a result of a radical review of the current system. The Browne Review into Higher Education funding is due to be published on October 11 and is expected to introduce serious changes to areas such as tuition fees, loans, grants and bursaries.
According to reports the chairman of the review, Lord Browne, is keen to remove the current £3,290 cap on tuition fees completely, enabling universities to charge students as much as they please. It is estimated that leading universities could charge their students between up to £10,000 whilst tuition fees for science graduates could rise to £14,000.
It had previously been suspected that the panel would only advise a higher cap of £5,000-£7,000. But a report in the Sunday Times in September suggested that the higher figure of £10,000 was in fact the likely choice.There had been vague speculation that a graduate tax who be introduced. Championed by the National Union of Students, a graduate tax would see students not paying any fees up front, but instead contributing to the costs of their education through a tax once they become employed. Higher earning graduates would repay more than those who went into lower paid jobs such as nursing or teaching.
A draft of the report was produced on the September 6, showed that the panel was unconvinced by the possibility of a graduate tax. Instead, it appears that the review is inclined towards the increase of tuition fees as well as increasing the interest paid on student loans.
The increase in fees is expected to be introduced as early as 2012.
Severe increases to tuition fees could have a detrimental effect on applications, as the expensive fees on courses such as medicine and dentistry will act as a barrier to entry. The British Medical Association has warned that increasing tuition fees could land medical students with debts in excess of £90,000.
Universities who are part of the Russell Group and the 1994 Group – such as Lancaster – will likely charge £7,000. A smaller number including Oxford and Cambridge are expected to charge £10,000 if that figure become viable. Other universities are expected to try and compete by offering cheaper degrees.
The Comprehensive Spending Review is expected to reduce the overall state funding for universities by around 37%. According to the Sunday Times report of September 26, the government is set to cut 64% of the current £4.6bn teaching budget. State spending on research is also expected to be hit hard, with £1bn set to be removed.
The problem of university funding is causing a rift between the Liberal Democrats, who promised to abolish fees in their Election Manifesto earlier this year. Many Lib Dem MPs promised to vote against a rise in tuition fees before the election, a promise less prominent Lib Dems appear likely to uphold.
Aran Porter, President of the NUS, said: “Students start university this week and we will be reminding that the Liberal Democrats made a clear commitment to vote for us.”