Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Fees 'will price out poor students'

Unions fear that a flurry of universities hiking their tuition fees will price poor teenagers out of education
Hull University is to set its tuition fees at the top level
Nick Clegg

Fresh concerns have been raised that poor teenagers will be priced out of education as a last-minute flurry of universities announced plans to charge up to £9,000 from next year.

On the deadline day for universities to submit their fee plans to the Office for Fair Access (Offa), latest figures showed that two-thirds of institutions now plan to charge maximum fees for 2012.

Of the 70 universities to declare their fees publicly so far, 46 institutions intend to charge £9,000 for all undergraduate degree courses.

A further seven plan to charge up to £9,000 for some courses.

It means that the average fee next year is likely to be closer to £8,500 than the £7,500 originally predicted, and planned for, by ministers.

Bristol (£9,000), Hull (£9,000), Bournemouth (£8,200-£9,000), Lincoln (£9,000), Harper Adams (£9,000), Salford (£8,000 - £9,000) and Sheffield Hallam, (£8,500) which is attended by many students living in Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's constituency, are among the latest to declare their fee levels.

Universities which plan to charge more than £6,000 in fees from next year must submit plans to Offa for how they intend to ensure poorer students can gain access to higher education. The deadline for doing so is midnight tonight.

But union leaders are warning that the Government must do more to ensure poor students have a fair opportunity of getting a degree at a time when their university funding policy is in "disarray".

Unison's head of higher education Jon Richards said: "Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds deserve a fair shot at getting into any university in the UK. With the going rate for a degree now at £9,000, the danger is that many will be put off."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) insisted that "ability to learn, not ability to pay" will determine who goes to university, adding that no students will be asked to pay fees upfront and there will be financial support for the poorest students.

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