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Degree costs set to rise to £26,000

Students heading off to university next year can expect to pay more than £26,000 for a three-year degree, as the cost of higher education rises.

New figures show that the average fee for those beginning courses next autumn will be around £8,700, up 1.2% on 2014/15.

More than three in four universities and colleges in England will charge the maximum £9,000 for at least one of their degree courses, while one in four will charge the top price as standard.

Overall, students starting degree courses in 2015/16 will be charged an estimated £8,703 on average, up from £8,601 in 2014/15.

At this figure, the cost of a three-year degree would amount to around £26,109 in total.

After fee waivers, which reduce the cost for poorer students, the estimated average fee will be around £8,636, up 2.2%, according to figures published by the Office For Fair Access (OFFA).

And once all financial support, including fee waivers, scholarships, bursaries and grants, is taken into account, the average tuition fee will be around £8,280, up 3% on 2014/15.

In total, 130 out of 172 universities and colleges (76%), will charge £9,000 for at least one course, and 44 (25%) will ask for the maximum across the board.

After fee waivers are taken into account, around 23 institutions will have average fees of £9,000, compared to around eight which were planning to charge this price after waivers in 2014/15.

These institutions are likely to provide bursaries or other forms of financial support.

The figure indicates that more institutions may be looking for other means, besides fee waivers, to support disadvantaged students.

Details of the fees due to be charged by English universities next year were released by OFFA as it published new information on institutions’ plans to ensure that poorer students are not priced out of higher education.

Under the new fees system, introduced in 2012, institutions that want to charge more than £6,000 a year, up to a maximum of £9,000, must submit to OFFA annual ”access agreements” setting out how they will attract and recruit disadvantaged students.

Those institutions which fail to meet the targets laid out in the agreement risk facing hefty fines or losing the right to charge higher fees.

OFFA said that the new access agreements submitted to them for approval showed that universities and colleges with low numbers of disadvantaged students – often highly selective institutions – planned to spend more on targeted long-term work aimed at raising the aspirations and attainment of would-be students.

Those that have higher numbers of disadvantaged students were set to invest more in supporting these students in their studies and helping them to move into employment or postgraduate courses.

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “I am pleased with the increasingly strategic, evidence-led approach we are seeing in the access agreements that universities and colleges submit to us.

“Most notably, we’ve seen a clear change in investment patterns, with universities and colleges following OFFA guidance to identify the areas in which they most need to improve and then to focus the balance of their effort accordingly, making sure they are investing in approaches and activities likely to have the greatest impact.”

Toni Pearce, president of the National Union of Students (NUS) said: “Universities should be casting the net as wide as possible when identifying those with the potential to benefit from a diverse range of higher education options.

“It is welcome that more money will now be spent by universities on cash support directly putting pounds into the pockets of students who may be struggling financially, rather than on gimmicky fee waivers.

“Our research shows that students prefer regular cash support to waivers or vouchers of any kind, and the significant shift away from fee waivers is testament to the hard work done by students’ unions to ensure students get the support they need, when they need it.”

Universities minister Greg Clark said: “These figures clearly show that our reforms to higher education are working and that universities and colleges take their responsibility for widening access seriously.

“Last week OFFA revealed that investment from higher education institutes to widen access for disadvantaged groups increased by 27% in 2012/13.

“Today the forecast spending on access agreements will increase 30%, from £563.5 million last year to £735.2 million in 2018/19.

“I welcome these figures which provide more evidence that institutions are prepared to invest significantly to help disadvantaged people access higher education.

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