University students are potentially facing tuition fees of £9,000 a year after the Government announced its plans for higher education in England.
Universities have been set a cap on fees of £6,000 a year, though this can be raised to £9,000 if an institution promotes access for poorer students. This has led to fears of a two-tier fees system in which smaller universities may be unable to attract students willing to pay the higher cap, in a situation where course closures would be inevitable.
The announcement was made to the House of Commons by Universities Minister David Willetts, in which he said that the changes were a "good deal for students and universities".
New tariffs, which come as a response to Lord Browne’s recommendations last month, will take effect from 2012 and could almost treble the current figure of £3,290 per year.
The rise in fees is set to counter the effects of the Government’s 40% cuts to the country’s higher education budget, as announced as of part of the Comprehensive Spending Review a fortnight ago.
Professor Les Ebdon of the Million+ group of new universities said: "Unless universities charge £9,000 there is a big risk that they will be worse and not better-off because of the swingeing cuts to teaching funding. The fear then must be that the outcome of such high fees will be to damage participation and social mobility."
The announcement will put Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, under intense political pressure, after he pledged that the Liberal Democrats would refuse to support a rise in tuition fees, with his party even proposing to scrap them ahead of last May’s General Election.
Speaking to BBC News, NUS President Aaron Porter said: “The Liberal Democrats should be ashamed of themselves today. They signed personal pledges opposing this to students and their families, and if they don’t stick to their pledge, we will chase them down. This is utterly unacceptable and a complete outrage and it could decimate access to our country’s universities."
By Jonathan Birchall, Website Editor
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