Costs of specialist IT courses top the list

Annual fees for taught postgraduate courses can be as high as £20,000, writes Rebecca Attwood

November 12, 2009

Specialist IT courses are the most expensive postgraduate courses in the country, according to a new survey.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England sampled data from higher education institutions to determine the average fees for different taught postgraduate courses.

The data were weighted: fees for part-time students were "scaled up" to show what the cost would have been had the course been full time.

Across the sector, the average annual fee for a taught postgraduate course in 2007-08 was £6,220.

When broken down by subject and type of institution, the most expensive subject to pursue emerged as IT in a specialist institution, which cost an average of £19,310.

This was followed by business courses in specialist institutions, which averaged £16,185. At the top end, the fees levied can be far higher: the London Business School charged £45,500 to new entrants joining its 15-21-month MBA course in August.

Among universities, business courses came out as the most expensive at £9,365, while the average postgraduate law course came in at £7,050. The least expensive postgraduate courses in universities were in languages, for which fees averaged £3,915.

Taught postgraduate courses at specialist institutions cost students more on average (£7,315) than those offered by universities (£6,135).

The survey also examined fees for part-time undergraduates, which were found to average £1,815.

The figures were published as Hefce announced "a fundamental review" of the way it funds teaching.

Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of Hefce, says in a letter to vice-chancellors: "We will explore all options, ranging from fundamental changes to the teaching method to minimal or no changes."

The two-year review will take into account the Government's higher education framework document - the long-term strategy published last week - as well as the review of higher education fees and funding, announced this week.

The framework commits to the current block grant system of university funding but says there should be a greater element of competition for funds, with the "winners" being "those who can best respond to ... evolving economic challenges".

Asking Hefce to consult on how to implement this, the document adds that "to allow funds to be diverted to courses that meet strategic skills needs they will be diverted away from institutions whose courses fail to meet high standards of quality or outcome".

The framework warns that maintaining current levels of funding per student through public expenditure alone would be "extremely difficult".

Hefce's consultation on the teaching funding method will begin this winter, and any resulting changes will be implemented in 2012-13 at the earliest.


Subject (institution type): Average annual postgraduate fee

IT (specialist institution): £19,310

Business (specialist institution): £16,185

Business (university): £9,365

Lab-based science (specialist institution): £8,895

Humanities (specialist institution): £8,365
Source: Hefce.

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