Universities Increase Fees Beyond the Current £9,000 Cap

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

It has been reported that some universities are already announcing tuition fees for the 2017-18 academic year that are above the current £9,000 limit, despite the fact parliament has not even finished debating its plans, which could see fees increased.

Those universities who have published fees for 2017-18 at £9,250 include Durham, Kent and Royal Holloway.

MPs will vote later in the year on whether to allow universities to increase tuition fees if they can show they meet a certain teaching criteria, which will be outlined under the teaching excellence framework. However, final approval is expected to be a formality after higher education minister Jo Johnson announced in May that fees would rise by 2.8%.

The increase is being linked to the inflation measure - the Retail Price Index excluding mortgage interest payments (RPIX). But some might question the announced 2.8% increase given that the RPIX has not been at this level since January 2014. The latest RPIX figure for June 2016 was just 1.6%.

It has also been argued that by advertising fees before a decision has even been made, universities are doing nothing to quash the claims that institutions are simply trying to get as much cash as they can from students.

However, universities have responded suggesting that they have published the higher fee to ensure that potential and existing students had as much notice as possible, whilst also ensuring that they comply with consumer protection guidelines.

Other universities are still advertising fees at the current £9,000 limit but with a warning that there could be possible increases.

For students studying in England the latest data provided by the Student Loans Company indicates that those eligible to repay their loan in 2016 had an average balance of £24,640. This represents a 16% increase year-on-year, whereas between the years of 2011 and 2016 this figure has risen 52%.

If government plans get approved, then it's possible that students starting their studies in subsequent years will be exposed to higher fees. This raises the concern that students will become saddled with ever greater levels of debt, which many see as already being too high.

It's not just students that will be impacted by increasing loan amounts. As of March 2016 the balance of government student loans in England surpassed £76.2 billion, an increase of 18% year-on-year. As a result, new lending and the interest added outweighed the repayments being made by students eligible to repay.