Context: fees and funding

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Proposals for a raise in undergraduate tuition fees were made by the Government after cuts of 40% to the Higher Education budget were announced at a spending review on 20th October 2010. These proposals caused controvesy and street protests across England in 2010/11.

Despite these protests the proposed changes went ahead. The cap on tuition fees has been raised, for universities in England, from £3,375 to £9,000.

The rise in tuition fees has been announced in order to cover major cuts to the Government’s funding of universities. Universities argue that the extra tuition fees will not result in any superfluous money for the university itself; it will just cover the cuts from Government funding.

A cut of 6% to teaching grants has already been in place for the 2011-12 academic year, with a further 16% cut anticipated for the year 2012-13.

Prior to the rise in tuition fees, 29% of a university’s total funding was made up of the fees, including those from postgraduate and overseas students. Another 35% came from government funding bodies, while the rest came from other sources such as private investments and grants for research.

In England, due to the rise in tuition fees and cuts to government funding this balance will change; much of the cost of university courses will no longer be met by the taxpayer, through the Government, but will rely more on the student’s tuition fees.

Yet every university cannot simply charge £9,000 for all their courses. Those wishing to charge more than £6,000 must show that they are encouraging applications from students of a variety of backgrounds. This could take the form of summer schools, or outreach projects, such as Lancaster’s own AimHigher project.

The universities must prove that they are appealing to students of all backgrounds, especially those of a less affluent background in order to be able to charge £9000. Support also has to be provided for these students from poorer
backgrounds, during their study, in the form of bursaries or reductions in rent.

The system for the payment of fees will not change; the Government will still lend students the money, which they will not pay back until they have graduated and are in a secure job. While students who began studying prior to 2012 will have to pay back their loans once they are earning a minimum of £15,000 this will rise to £21,000 for students paying the maximum £9,000 as of 2012 and will continue to rise annually alongside inflation.

This will mean that undergraduates on a three-year course which costs £9,000, and who also receive full maintenance loans for accommodation and living cost, will leave university with around £43,000 of debt. The Government is still undecided as to whether a charge will be incurred for early repayment.

Universities in Scotland do not currently charge Scottish students, yet as of these changes becoming affective in September 2012, they will be able to raise the charges for non-Scottish students up to £9,000 in accordance with universities in England.

In Northern Ireland home students’ fees will be capped at £3,465 whereas non-home students’ fees could rise up to £9,000. The Welsh Assembly has also announced fees rising up to £9,000 to accord for cuts of 12% in funding to Welsh Universities.

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