Universities raise fees despite attracting fewer applications

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TWO universities which have seen among the biggest drops in applications in Yorkshire are planning to increase their fees next year, new figures reveal.

Sheffield Hallam will become the sixth university out of nine in the region to charge the maximum £9,000 in 2013 while Leeds Metropolitan’s highest fee will be £8,750 a year.

They are both charging £8,500 this year when the new higher fees regime comes in.

Sheffield Hallam’s deputy vice chancellor Professor Cliff Allan said the rise would only result in a “marginal increase” in the amount students actually pay back when they graduate. Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York will all charge £9,000-a-year from September.

Figures published today by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) show how much universities plan to charge in 2013 and the level they will invest in supporting students from deprived backgrounds.

Any university which plans to charge more than £6,000 a year has to have “access arrangements” such as bursaries, fee waivers and outreach work approved by Offa.

Institutions that fail to meet targets in their agreement on recruiting and retaining students risk a hefty fine or losing the right to charge more than £6,000.

In total, 122 universities and 28 further education colleges now have access agreements in place for 2013/14, the second year after the higher tuition fee hike.

Today’s figures show university tuition fees are set to rise next year, with students paying just over £8,500 on average.

A third of English institutions will charge the maximum £9,000 as standard for a degree in 2013. The Government previously predicted that universities would only charge the top amount in “exceptional circumstances.”

Students starting degree courses in autumn next year will pay estimated average tuition fees of £8,507, up from the latest estimate of £8,385 for 2012/13. After fee waivers, which reduce the charge for poorer students, the estimated average fee will be £8,263, Offa said. The figures show that 94 of 122 universities will charge £9,000 for at least one of their courses, and 42 institutions, just over a third, will charge the maximum as standard.

Sheffield Hallam’s deputy vice chancellor Professor Cliff Allan said: “The increase, from the fee of £8,500 for students entering in 2012, includes an adjustment for inflation and puts us in line with comparative universities.

“The rise in fee level between 2012 and 2013 will result in marginal differences in the loan amounts which graduates will then have to repay when they are earning salaries over £21,000.

“Sheffield Hallam continues to invest in facilities and activities to provide a high quality experience for our students, particularly to ensure good graduate employment prospects and a good return on students’ investment in their futures.”

Figures published earlier this month showed Yorkshire universities have been badly hit by the national drop in applications as the higher tuition fees come into force. Five higher education institutions in the region have seen the number of figures falling by more than 10 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Sheffield Hallam saw its application numbers fall by 17.5 per cent while the Leeds Met figure has fallen by 15.9 per cent. The higher fees will only start to be repaid by students after they graduate and earn more than £21,000 a year.