Ucas' day job to get all fees online

But service is forced to scrap printed guide due to uncertainty over reforms, writes Rebecca Attwood

February 24, 2011

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is to publish online on a single day in July details of 2012 tuition fees for every course, while its annual guide to university courses has had to be scrapped owing to changes to the funding regime.

Students who plan to start university in autumn 2012, when the new £9,000 fee cap is introduced, will be able to access course information on the Ucas website from mid-May. But universities will still be able to update details of the degrees they plan to offer after this.

The Ucas online applications tool, Apply, will be available from mid-June, and students can begin to submit applications for 2012 entry this September.

But Ucas has cancelled its annual print publication, the Big Guide, which lists course information. In a statement on its website, it explains that the decision was due to "changes to government policy in relation to student finance arrangements and higher education funding, and the timing of confirmation on the fine detail of these changes".

This uncertainty means that "many universities may be delayed in planning their course provision for 2012 entry", the statement says.

Instead of the Big Guide, the body has published The Ucas Guide to Getting into University and College, which does not feature course information.

The developments follow the news that many universities have found it impossible to publish tuition fees for the 2012-13 academic year in their undergraduate prospectuses because of delays to the government's letter of guidance on access agreements.

One of the arguments made by the government last year for pushing the fee-cap rise quickly through Parliament was that it would enable university prospectuses to list prices.

All institutions wanting to charge fees of more than £6,000 must have access agreements with the Office for Fair Access, but the watchdog did not receive a final letter of guidance from ministers explaining how it should approach the agreements until 10 February.

Offa now aims to issue access guidance on 28 February.

Universities must submit their proposed access agreements in early to mid-April and Offa will decide on their proposals by early to mid-July.

An exact date for the publication of the tuition-fees data in July has not been confirmed.

Ucas said it was "working closely" with Offa and others "to ensure we publish the right course information at the right times".

"This will enable applicants...to continue to research their options as early as possible, with further information about fee levels coming on stream once funding arrangements have been agreed across the sector," a Ucas spokesman said.

The National Union of Students, which had pressed for fee details to be released simultaneously, welcomed the announcement.


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