The University of Nottingham has announced that from 2012 it plans to charge the maximum rate of tuition fees possible. Current students and those joining the University this year will be unaffected by the change, but full-time undergraduate students starting from 2012 will pay £9,000 each year for their degree. As before, students will not be obliged to pay their fees upfront, instead paying them back in instalments of 9% of any income that is above £21,000 a year.
Around 30 Universities have announced their tuition fee plans, with Nottingham joining nine other Russell Group Universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, in announcing maximum fees. All of the ten 1994 Group universities who have announced their proposals, 100% have also opted for £9,000 fees. On top of this, other Universities outside of these groups, including former polytechnics such as Oxford Brookes, have announced that students may have to pay maximum fees.
[pullquote]”I am confident that under the new arrangements we will continue to attract students of the highest calibre, whatever their background”
Professor David Greenaway
The University officially released a statement on its website, which said that the changes have been made in response to the Browne Review as well as recent education cuts. The statement asserted that the decision had been made “after several months of detailed investigation”. The University claims that charging full tuition fees is necessary to “allow the University to invest further in a world-class student experience that has made Nottingham one of the most popular universities in the UK”.
The announcement comes amid a furore over the number of institutions who are planning on charging maximum fees. Business Secretary Vince Cable has made it clear that Universities that insist on charging maximum fees may see student numbers cut.
“Under the new principle whereby funding follows student choices, some institutions could very well find themselves in trouble if students can’t see value” he said, “That trouble would only intensify as those institutions who prove themselves capable of attracting students and keen to expand their provision are given opportunities to do so.”
Labour, meanwhile, have called for the reforms to be halted until it becomes clear what the consequences of top level fees being charged will be. It has also been proposed that the Office For Fair Access, which regulates fee levels, should be given more powers to prevent universities from charging fees that are seen as excessive.
The University has also made moves to reassure prospective students that increased aid and bursaries will be available to students from lower-income families, as well as extending its work with the community through a new initiative called the ‘Nottingham Potential programme’, designed to work with primary and lower-secondary school pupils.
The University has also promised an additional £4 million to support new entrants in 2012 on top of the £6 million currently spent by the University on student financial support. The increased fees will also lead to the introduction of fee waivers “in some cases”.
Vice-Chancellor Professor David Greenaway stated: “I am confident that under the new arrangements we will continue to attract students of the highest calibre, whatever their background”.
The move is likely to prove unpopular amongst the majority of current students, many of whom took part in or supported the tuition fees protests back in November, as well as the subsequent occupation of the Great Hall. Although no current students will be affected by the changes in fees, questions will no doubt still be raised as to the fairness of £9,000 fees being levied for all undergraduate students regardless of the degree taken, particularly considering the lack of teaching hours currently involved in many Arts courses and the sentiment of many that their courses are used to subsidise other degrees that are more expensive to run.
The new fee levels are subject to agreement by the Office For Fair Access, who will confirm in July if they approve of the changes.
Fiona Crosby and Ben McCabe