University fee increases go ahead

BBC Wales political correspondent Ciaran Jenkins asks pupils in Swansea how their plans for the future are being affected by the fees shake up

Eight out of 10 universities in Wales will charge maximum tuition fees of £9,000 per year for some or all their courses, it has been announced.


The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales said every institution has had their plans to increase fees from September 2012 accepted.


Universities’ initial proposals were all rejected last month.


The National Union of Students in Wales said the decision was a “sad day for higher education in Wales”.


Students from Wales will have the increase in fees paid for them by the Welsh Government, which now faces a bill of around £280m a year to finance the grants.


It is thought most Welsh students will pay roughly £3,400 a year.

Continue reading the main story £9,000: Cardiff, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Swansea, Glamorgan, Newport (some £8,250), Uwic, Trinity Saint David (for undergraduate teacher training in Welsh and English)£8,500: Swansea Metropolitan (exc art & design courses, which are £8,750)£5,850-£7,750: Glyndwr University (£6,643 average) Source: HEFCWBut First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “We are confident that we can pay for the tuition fees policy during the course of this government.”


Applicants from European Union countries will also be eligible for the subsidy, though students from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will pay the full rate.


The University and College Union (UCU) urged institutions to be cautious on how much they charge for courses.


It is concerned that charging £9,000 a year would be off-putting for some students, especially at institutions which are “renowned for local delivery and widening access in our communities”.


“These courses provide a lifeline to many people trying to move up the social ladder, and for them to be put off by higher fees would be disastrous.”


However, Higher Education Wales (HEW), the representative body for universities in Wales, welcomed the approval.


HEW director Amanda Wilkinson said: “This has been a very testing but worthwhile process.


“Universities have emerged with stronger plans to deliver for students and prospective learners from backgrounds with little tradition of going to university. We can now move forward to putting these positive and far reaching plans into action.”


In rejecting all initial applications, HEFCW said it encouraged institutions to set more ambitious targets.


Universities were told they need to meet certain requirements, including on equal access and improving the student experience.

Continue reading the main story

Chad Collins is a lower sixth-former at Ysgol Gyfun Bryn Tawe, and is hoping to study physiotherapy at Cardiff University.


“I don’t really mind about the fees. It’s a case of whether I do well in my exams, whether I am willing to go for the degree in Cardiff. With fees. fair enough, that the Welsh Government will pay most of it, but again, it’s quite daunting for most students who have a poorer background.


“At the end of the day, I’m really motivated to go to university no matter what the fees are. It’s just a case of what my results are like on results day. I find that no matter what degree I do, I’ll still have to pay anyway after graduation in university.” He added: “The cheaper the fees, the better it is for students to be able to go from their A-Levels straight into their degree in whichever university and it will be better off for the students.”


Ben Knight-Gregson is studying for a masters degree in physics at Swansea University.


“There’s always going to be scholarships and bursaries and such and if you actually go out and look away from university there are many scholarships and bursaries from research institutes and different charities etc. I’m of the opinion that it’s great trying to get everybody as equal an opportunity to come to university as they can, and obviously with the fees being risen that could cause an issue for some people, but I don’t see what the problem is with regards trying to encourage more people from poorer backgrounds when everybody’s given the opportunity to have the same financial assistance if needs be.”

The Office for Fair Access is due to announce on Tuesday whether universities in England have had their fee plans accepted.


Cardiff, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Swansea, Glamorgan and the University of Wales Newport all wish to charge £9,000 fees, although Newport will offer some courses at £8,250.


Institutions whose fee plans are rejected will have the right to appeal.


On Monday, Wrexham Glyndwr University confirmed an average fee of £6,643 for full-time undergraduate degrees, saying it adopted a model of differentiated rates as some degrees are more expensive to offer than others.


Professor Michael Scott, Glyndwr University vice-chancellor said: “We are not seeking the highest fees to replace teaching grants into the university, we are seeking to continue to do the best thing for our students and community.”


Swansea University vice-chancellor Prof Richard Davies said his university needed to be able to charge the full amount to maintain its high standards.


“It is no secret at all that we have requested to be able to charge fees at £9,000 a year. We’ve done our sums very carefully.


“We have to replace a very large amount of public funding that is being withdrawn and it’s important that we maintain our student experience, the quality of our student experience, and the facilities that we provide for students here.”


University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC), will also charge £9,000 a year.


“These fees will allow the University to continue to provide a university experience of the highest quality to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to provide funds for additional student facilities,” a statement said.


Students from Wales will have the increase paid for them by the Welsh Government, wherever in the UK they study.

Full amount

Based on the Welsh Government’s calculations, this would see about £50m a year of its budget going to universities in England, as students from Wales take their grants over the border.


The policy is costed on the basis of fees being £7,000 on average.


The total cost of the policy over nine years would be £1.5bn although this would be offset by a 35% cut to university budgets.


However, questions have been asked about its affordability if average fees are nearer £9,000.


Education Minister Leighton Andrews has said he would look again at the “balance of funding between different elements of the higher education and student finance resource budget” in such a situation.


In June it emerged that the body implementing Welsh Government policy on subsidising university tuition fees did not understand how it would work, three months after it was announced.


HEFCW chief executive Prof Philip Gummett warned in e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act that the education minister’s public statements on the issue did not make sense.


In a later e-mail, Prof Gummett said he did not understand the modelling which lay behind the government’s policy.


Baroness Jenny Randerson, a Welsh Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, said she feared the policy had been “drawn up on the back of an envelope”.

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