Tuition Fee Hike? On Your Bike!

It’s well documented that raising a child is the most expensive investment of your life: being a parent certainly doesn’t come cheap. But then again, neither does a degree. For those starting university in 2012, it’s never been a more expensive time to be a student. With tuition fees at most institutions set to rise from £3,400 to £9,000 a year; will the extra expense put off parents, many of whom already struggle to balance their budget?

The controversial rise in tuition fees will soon come into force, with the majority of universities signing up for the maximum £9,000 fee. This will mean that those graduating after a three year course will leave university with a £27,000 tuition bill; with more debt on top to pay for living expenses.

The government have attempted to soften the blow by increasing the threshold at which graduates start paying back their loan. Under new legislation only those who have an income of £21,000 and over will start repayments; up from  the £15,000 cut-off set under the previous Labour government. However, the harsh reality remains that an estimated 200,000 students will graduate each year with average debts of £45,000 – the most personally expensive system of university funding in the world.

Yet,  Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, has defended the rise in tuition fees: “Given the far reaching cuts to university funding introduced by the current and previous Governments, higher graduate contributions are the fairest and only viable way forward. Our leading institutions cannot continue to be internationally competitive, provide a first-rate teaching experience and offer generous support to disadvantaged students without access to increased funding.”

Click on the link to check out what tuition fee each university is charging come September 2012.


Tuition Fees by University

Data from the Guardian data blog.


Figures collated by UCAS have suggested that the rise in tuition fees has had a detrimental  affect on the number of applications. Universities received 22,000 fewer submissions in 2012; down 6% from the previous year. England saw the most noticeable decline of 8.3% compared to a fall of merely 0.8% in Scotland and 1.9% in Wales.

It is unsurprising that Scotland and Wales saw the smallest decline in University applications, given Scotland’s lower tuition fees and the Welsh Assembly’s subsidy for home students. Scottish students will be charged a much smaller tuition fee of £1,820, despite the fact that Welsh and English students enrolled in Scottish universities will have to pay the maximum £9,000 fee in most cases.

The Welsh Assembly has also promised to assist in funding the cost of extra fees for students from Wales attending any UK university. Most students from Wales will pay the first £3,400, and the government will pay the remainder of their course fees wherever they choose to study through fee grants.

This begs the question of how disadvantaging English students in the devolution of funding Higher Education in the UK will impact upon English universities?

The graph below shows the reach of declining number of applicants in each region of the UK.

Percentage of difference in University applications from 2011-2012 by region

In terms of the student demographic; mature students have seen the largest decline. UCAS figures show applications from people over the age of 25 have fallen by more than a fifth,  whereas the drop in 18 year old applicants is by 1.8%.

President of the National Union of Students, Liam Burns expressed his concern: “We’ve seen a drop in applications across the board and most pronounced amongst mature students and it’s deeply worrying that this group who might be looking to re-train are being most put off by the higher fees.”

Dr Wendy Piatt from the Russell Group claimed: “It’s not surprising the number of applications is lower than last year, but there are a number of reasons for that. Demographic changes mean there are fewer 18-year-olds in 2012 than in 2011 and we also know there was a peak in applications last year as fewer people chose to take gap years. Despite all the hype, fee reforms are unlikely to cause a long-term decline in applications. In the past a fall in applications in the first year of higher fees has been followed by increases in subsequent years.”

The government insist that students will not be disadvantaged by the new tution fee policy, stating that graduates will only be required to repay £9 in every £100 they earn over £21,000 for 30 years. If they never earn enough to repay, their loan is written off. Indeed the government expects about 30% of the cash it is lending never to be repaid. They argue the repayment system protects both low-earners and those students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

However, according to NUS President Liam Burns, “the new fees system will mean that those students who are the most debt averse will choose to go to universities with lower fees despite it making little difference to how much they actually pay back in the end. In the end the poorest and most vulnerable students will have the least money spent on their education in a reverse of Nick Clegg’s much lauded Pupil Premium for school pupils.”

For further information on the rise in tuition fees and how it will affect you, follow the links below to government websites:

From the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills: Frequently asked questions about Student Finance from Septemeber 2012.

From DirectGov: Financial help for parents in education


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