Bumper postgraduate fee rises at some UK universities

Variable data in benchmarking tool suggest inflationary pressures yet to have full impact

June 8, 2022
 Storm waves break against Brighton Palace Pier to illustrate Bumper rises in postgraduate fees at some UK institutions
Source: Getty

Some UK universities are raising their headline postgraduate fees by 10 per cent or more next year, an analysis of the latest course data for 2022-23 suggests, raising questions about whether inflationary pressures are forcing such hikes.

Benchmarking data on individual courses collected from institutional websites by The Knowledge Partnership (TKP) suggest that about 10 institutions have an average fee rising by at least a 10th, with many more increasing fees by at least 5 per cent.

Examples include Birmingham City University, where the average international postgraduate taught fee is going up by 20 per cent to about £16,400, when looking at 80 courses with comparable fees between 2021-22 and 2022-23, and London Metropolitan University, where the average is rising by 16 per cent to £15,700, based on 65 courses.

Meanwhile, for UK taught postgraduates, the data suggest that the average headline fee at Edge Hill University will increase by 16 per cent next year, based on comparing 30 courses, although still to what is one of the lowest levels in the sector – £7,700.

The role that rising university costs caused by inflation may be playing in such fee setting is unclear given that many fees would have been set before the current concerns about rising prices were making headlines.

Some of the variation in the TKP data also suggests that price elasticity – the degree to which raising fees affects demand for courses and, therefore, student numbers – could have been more central to decision-making than inflationary pressures in 2022-23.

Amy Ross, a senior market insight analyst at TKP, which is a Times Higher Education company, said “many institutions have fee-setting procedures that make decisions well in advance of their public release”.

But, she added, it “seems likely that fee increases next year will continue to be significant as inflationary pressures make themselves felt”.

Ms Ross also said it was “important to recognise the impact that other factors – such as discounts and scholarships, university reputation and recruitment – have on fee setting”.

A Birmingham City spokesman said its international postgraduate fees “reflect the costs of delivering our courses, the specific services required to ensure the best support possible for our overseas students, and the continual improvement of our academic offer”.

Meanwhile, London Met said it had introduced “generous scholarship packages” for eligible students, which meant that in “real terms, the cost of our courses has only increased very slightly for most”.

Edge Hill’s deputy vice-chancellor Steve Igoe said the university did not recognise the 16 per cent figure, adding that its own benchmarking indicated that its fees were “competitively priced” and “among the lowest in the north-west”.

He also pointed out that many students on its master’s courses benefited from a 50 per cent discount if they were previously undergraduates at Edge Hill.

“Like all universities, we are feeling the effects of the substantial inflationary pressures in the economy, but this does not impact our [postgraduate taught] fees for 2022-23,” he added.


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