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The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has introduced new guidelines to accompany the rise in tuition fees from 2012.
These guidelines are part of the government’s plan to encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply to university after the controversial increase in fees. Under the new guidelines a certain percentage of the money raised from tuition fees will be given to schemes to encourage poorer students.
A university raising its tuition fees to £9000 with a low percentage of under-represented students would be expected to pay up to 30% of their set fee, or £900, towards improving this. A university with a high percentage of under-represented students would be expected to pay 15%, £450 towards these plans.
In Lancaster’s case, following the probability that fees will rise to £9000 in 2012 to match surrounding universities in the league tables, Robbie Pickles, current LUSU President, has said a contribution of around £700 would be expected, as “Lancaster has a very good demographic. Only 10% [of students come from] private schools, which is phenomenally rare”.
These schemes to support and encourage poorer students will be achieved by spending more on means tested fee waivers, and outreach programmes in schools to target students at a young age. But, the introduction of these schemes comes amid reductions in bursaries, something Lancaster prides itself on.
Pickles added: “A better approach would be the cash-in-hand bursaries, as what is more important now, is meeting rent costs and other general costs, and that is what poorer students need immediately to get to university.”
Despite the fact that these guidelines are not strict rules, and national levels for proportions of under-represented students will not exist, OFFA has determined that failure to meet the payments agreed by each individual university could result in refusal to sign the next annual access agreement. This would mean that a university could not charge more than £6,000 for tuition fees in the next academic year.