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Universities in England will be permitted to charge between £6,000 and £9,000 per year as tuition fees it was announced today.
Currently tuition fees for universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are set at a maximum of £3,290 per year.
Universities Minister David Willets described the increase in fees as a “progressive” change. Meanwhile the National Union of Students called the announcement “an outrage”. The announcement of the raised tuition fee plan comes between the government commissioned Higher Education Review compiled by Lord Browne published last month and a student protest organised for Wednesday Week Five in London.
Lancaster University is taking 250 students to the protest and petitions signed by hundreds more. LUSU President Robbie Pickles said “clearly students will be deeply disturbed by the news that fees could triple to as high as £9000 per year. There can be no doubt that this hike, coupled with interest rates of up to 10%, will hit the poorest hardest and put them off Higher Education.”
Pickles also predicted the outcome of what higher fees would bring. “With less graduates and, therefore, less tax revenue, these moves will hit not just students wallets but will also cripple Britain’s economic recovery and throw us back into the howling abyss of recession,” he said.
The president of the NUS, Aaron Porter, took the announcement as yet another betrayal by the Liberal Democrat ministers who pledged to vote against any rise in tuition fees in the run up to the general election. He said that Liberal Democrat ministers in the coalition who side with the fees should be “ashamed of themselves”.
The higher fees will be expected to combat a lack of revenue following the Comprehensive Spending Review published last week. Higher education institutions are set to lose a lot of the funding that the government sets aside for them, and the funding they continue to be given will be reserved for priority subjects.
“Essentially, it allows universities to replace a large part of the lost state funding for teaching by way of graduate contributions,” said Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, a higher education action group.
There are fears that some universities and subjects would lose out on students as they charge more or less than other institutions of courses.
There have also been criticisms indicating a two-tier system could emerge. The president of Oxford University Student Union, David Barclay, believes it could mean “returning us to the dark days of some universities for the many and some universities for the few.”