Offa set for early fee plans

November 26, 2004

Universities look set to finalise plans for tuition fees and bursaries in 2006 by January - two months before the deadline.

The Office for Fair Access revealed this week that a "great majority" of institutions hoped to submit access plans for the regulator's approval by January 4.

At the launch of the regulator last month, Sir Martin Harris, director of Offa, set a March 18 deadline for plans to be submitted. But he promised that universities would receive a response by March 11 if they lodged their documents by January 4.

It is understood that about ten institutions have already submitted early drafts to the regulator for comment before putting the final touches to their plans.

Without the regulator's approval, universities will not be permitted to raise tuition fees to the £3,000 maximum in 2006.

The access plans will spell out how each institution proposes to attract students from poor backgrounds - including details of bursary schemes, the pricing of courses and the self-imposed targets for widening participation.

John Rushforth, deputy director of Offa, said that questions about the targets commonly featured in seminars held by Offa to explain the new regime.

He said universities wanted to know how those self-imposed targets would relate to "benchmarks" for widening participation published this summer by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.


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