Universities up and down the country have been given the go-ahead to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000, after the Office of Fair Access (OFFA) agreed to the plans put in place for poorer students.
The average tuition fee across the country for 2012-2013 will be £8,393, which drops to £8,161 when fee waivers are taken into consideration.
The University of Southampton – which will charge the full £9,000 – plans to include a waiver of £3,000 for those students coming in from a family income of less than £25,000, which is expected to be 21% of next year’s intake. These students will also have a chance to receive one of 300 bursaries worth £1000 from the University.
New students whose families earn over £42,600 wil receive no fee waiver, however they will be given a £300 ‘Southampton Entitlement’, which can be used to purchase university services essential to study.
The University also plans to eliminate ‘hidden costs’ from coming out of student’s wallets, such as field trips on core modules.
Sasha Watson, VP Academic Affairs of SUSU, said “The University have proposed, to their credit, one of the fairest financial packages out there, especially within the Russell Group of Universities.”
“What we need to do as a Union, though, is to keep putting pressure on the University to ensure they provide students with as much as possible in terms of an excellent student experience, whilst still campaigning against the Government’s Higher Education proposals.”
Along with providing financial support for poorer students, the University has also pledged to restore a cut in Aimhigher funding, as well as increase spending on outreach activities by £1million per year up until 2015.
Spending on the careers service will also increase by £1m over the next four years.
Despite several protests, petitions and lobbying of MPs in the past ten months, students across England have been unable to overturn any government announcement or decision on tuition fees.
New NUS President Liam Burns suggested that fee waivers were “being used in a cynical attempt to cover up the mess made when the government trebled the tuition fee cap, instead of properly supporting less-wealthy students.”
However, director of the Office of Fair Access Sir Graeme Davis said that the assessment of access agreements had been “thoroughly rigorous and robust”, adding that “these agreements represent a considerable commitment by universities and colleges to improving access for students who are under-represented in higher education.”
The OFFA announcement comes hot on the heels of the publication of the Government’s white paper on higher education funding, which SUSU has already responded to here.
Close neighbours Southampton Solent University will charge £7,800 per year for their degree courses.