Even before official approval that universities may set tuition fees above the current £9,000 cap, some higher education institutions have already announced fees above that limit.
Durham, Kent, and Royal Holloway have already advertised fees at £9,250 for undergraduate courses in the 2017/18 year, despite the fact the vote in Parliament is yet to occur—and even if it does, only institutions that can display the highest quality teaching will be able to put fees up.
Other universities are either yet to publish 2017/18 fees or have displayed £9,000 fees with statements they are subject to change dependent on government policy.
These fees come with the clarification that the £250-a-year increase is subject to changes in the rate of inflation as well as the approval by the government, though they do not appear to reference that their institution would still need to meet set teaching criteria, on the same page.
Students starting their applications for university this coming academic year will therefore be faced with potential fee levels above the current maximum, potentially before the reform has even been passed by the government.
It has been described by the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesman John Pugh as “disgraceful arrogance from some universities.
“They’ve not even shown their plans for linking fee rises to Parliament. So why are they giving universities the impression that they will pass their teaching quality assessment?”
According to Higher Education reform proposals that are being scrutinised and approved by the government at the moment, if a university can display teaching of a high enough standard using a new Teaching Excellence Framework, they will be able to increase their fees in line with inflation.
Gordon Marsden, the Shadow Education Minister, warned that this move could mean there was no limit to which fees could rise. Following the vote to leave the European Union, no guarantee could be made of what level inflation could reach, meaning a “potential for significant rises in fee costs.”
Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary, said: “Universities advertising increased fees before the law has even been changed is just another blight on the sorry debacle that is the government’s plan for higher education.
“The time surely has now come for the government to stop the Higher Education Bill and think again.
“Those universities foolish enough to advertise higher fees will be doing nothing to quell concerns from students and parents that they are simply after as much cash as they can get.”
A government spokesperson said: “The teaching excellence framework will allow universities to maintain fees in line with inflation only if they meet a quality bar, as set out in the recent higher education White Paper.”
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