The Minister for Universities and Science has spoken negatively about plans for many universities to charge £9,000 a year for their courses.

David Willetts MP said: “We will all face a problem if the sector tries to cluster at the maximum possible level. We set the maximum level at £9,000 because we think there are some circumstances where fees of this level could be justified.

“This problem arises partly because the taxpayer is lending the money upfront, on preferential terms, and we expect that one-third of the loans will never be recovered. If graduate contributions end up higher than £7,500, we would reluctantly be forced to find savings from elsewhere in HE [higher education].”

The Government insists that the top fee must only be charged in “exceptional circumstances”.
Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students (NUS), commented that, “My instinct is that many universities outside of the Russell Group will also charge £9,000 to send a price signal of quality and the government has put in place no incentive to stop it.”

As reported by The Badger (21.02.11), top universities such as Oxbridge and Imperial College London are likely to charge the top band. Director General of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said: “It is crucial that our leading research-intensive universities are allowed to charge more than £6,000 in fees if they are to maintain their world-class status, give their students the first-rate education they deserve and continue to widen participation.” Therefore, the full charge may not only apply to Oxbridge, but also to the top 20 universities in the UK.

The Government has announced plans for restrictions concerning the amount of universities wanting to increase their fee. Any university that wants to charge more than the £6,000 base fee will have to enter into an agreement with the Office of Fair Access (Offa) where a plan will be set on how the university can encourage applications from poorer students. Not meeting quota targets would result on the university losing their higher fee status.

However, this new procedure may not secure the affordability of a university education for the future. Willetts added that on average, universities would need £7,000 per student to match current income levels of £6,000 once “efficiencies” had been made.

It is unknown whether The University of Sussex plan to charge the full £9,000, as the university will say nothing official until the details are published this June.

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