Fees to average £8,800 a year in Wales as charges outstrip government estimate

Universities and colleges in Wales are to charge average annual tuition fees of £8,800 after the funding council rubber stamped their plans to improve access.

July 11, 2011

Last month, Hefcw rejected the draft access plans submitted by institutions as part of their bid to charge higher fees, ruling that the proposals were insufficient.

But today it announced that it was happy with the revised strategies to improve access, as well as other areas such as IT and employability, submitted by 10 Welsh universities and three colleges.

The universities of Cardiff, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Swansea, Glamorgan and University of Wales Institute Cardiff will all charge £9,000 a year for undergraduates in 2012.

The University of Wales Newport will charge a range of fees from £8,250 to £9,000.

Swansea Metropolitan University will charge £8,750 for art and design courses and £8,500 for all others, while University of Wales Trinity Saint David will charge £8,500.

Yet Glyndwr University plans to charge an average of just £6,643, with a bachelor’s degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics subject costing £7,750 and a humanities or business degree costing £5,850.

David Warner, vice-chancellor at Swansea Metropolitan, said that it was not possible to provide courses at £6,000, and that the university had considered charging £9,000.

But charging students £250-£500 below the maximum price was a “gesture” to show that the institution was “trying to drive down costs”.

Phil Gummett, chief executive of Hefcw, said that in the initial access plans that were rejected, some institutions had not expressed their targets in a measurable way, or had over or underestimated how many students would apply.

“There were minor things about arithmetic – numbers didn’t seem quite right,” he told Times Higher Education.

Other institutions had been ordered to tackle more “substantive” issues, Professor Gummett said.

Around a third of the extra money Welsh universities will bring in through higher fees will go towards improving access.

“After the process every institution has raised the sum it was prepared to contribute to access and promoting higher education,” he said.

Only English students attending Welsh universities will be directly affected by the introduction of higher fees, because the Welsh government has pledged to cover the additional costs faced by Welsh students, over the £3,400 a year that they already pay.

Professor Gummett accepted that the average fee of £8,800 was higher than the initial estimate of £7,000 put forward by the Welsh government and said that Hefcw would have to look into how it could fund the higher than expected cost.

The outcome of negotiations between English universities and the Office for Fair Access, including the fees to be charged by every institution, is to be announced tomorrow.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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