Tuition fees will reap Pounds 126 million

December 19, 1997

CHARGING students tuition fees will push up total resources for higher education by Pounds 126 million next year, according to funding council estimates.

Announcing the amount of cash available to universities and colleges next year, the Higher Education Funding Council for England said higher education would be Pounds 149 million better off overall in 1998/99.

The bulk of the extra cash would come from charging students.

The news coincides with a funding council report that shows that the 5 to 10 per cent of students who drop out of university cost the public purse at least Pounds 90 million per year in wasted grant, tuition fees and maintenance. Take away the assumption that the years they do complete are worthwhile and this figure leaps to nearly Pounds 180 million.

The funding council announcement shows that total resources for institutions next year amount to Pounds 4,565 million, of which Pounds 3,860 million will go to universities and colleges as grant.

Direct comparison with last year's funding figures is difficult because of adjustments to grants caused by the fee changes.

But the total increase in grants and fees is expected to be about 3.3 per cent.

Division of resources between teaching and research is likely to remain stable.

The target number of student places will rise to 957,000, of which 6,000 will be allocated on a bidding basis.

The funding council has also decided to provide Pounds 8 million for project research in the arts and humanities next year - picking up the spirit of Sir Ron Dearing's recommendation for an Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Reports published by HEFCE this week show financial hardship is a common reason for students failing to finish their courses - particularly if they are working class. Those who leave because of money problems rarely return.

But just as serious is the poor information applicants receive about university life.

More than half of those who left higher education in 1994/95 were studying again by autumn 1996 - usually at a different institution - and another fifth said they intended to return, which suggests many drop-outs make badly informed choices at the application stage.

Students who left pre-1992 universities were especially likely to complain they had picked the wrong course. While men were more likely than women to blame studying or financial problems for making them leave.

The reports, compiled by teams at Liverpool John Moores and Keele universities, suggest that lengthening the time between publishing A-level results and accepting students would give applicants more time to work out what they want.

The authors say the situation could be improved if higher education institutions review student support, stop over-selling in prospectuses and ensure instead that potential students know exactly what is expected of them.

They reject linking non-completion rates to funding on the grounds that it could prejudice institutions against risky applicants.

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