Cheaper by the dozen: universities cut fees in response to White Paper

Around a dozen universities in England are considering lowering their tuition fees for 2012-13 in light of the government’s proposals to hive off some places to institutions charging less than £7,500, it has emerged.

September 8, 2011

The institutions – which have not been named – made inquiries with the Office for Fair Access about how they could go about revising the agreements they have struck on fees and the financial measures they propose to help poorer students.

Most of the universities that contacted Offa had existing charges – after fee waivers had been taken into account – between £7,500 and £8,500 but two were proposing a headline fee of £9,000.

The inquiries led Offa to issue guidance to all institutions on how they can go about revising their access agreements, although it warns that any changes should not disadvantage students that have already applied for 2012-13 entry.

It follows government plans – set out in the White Paper published in June – to remove 20,000 student places from universities charging more than £6,000, which would then be offered to institutions with an average fee, after waivers are taken into account, of less than £7,500.

Eric Thomas, the president of Universities UK, said he thought the government’s proposals on student number control would lead to some universities rethinking their fees policy, but he stressed this might include financial support for students as well as the headline charge.

Professor Thomas, the University of Bristol vice-chancellor, today gave his first major speech since taking over as UUK president from Sir Steve Smith.

In it he warned the government that UUK was “anxious that deregulation by academic achievement [the policy for unlimited recruitment of students with AAB A-level grades or better] will have consequences for social mobility, student choice and for the sustainability of some STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses”.

However, Vince Cable, the business secretary, told the conference that the government would be “looking very carefully” at the impact of the changes in a bid to avoid unintended consequences.

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