Another university demands top fees

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The Independent Online

Oxford Brookes has became the latest university to declare its fees for 2012, announcing they will be set at the maximum £9,000.

The institution said the charges will help it to "improve and invest in all areas of student life".

The announcement comes the day after Business Secretary Vince Cable warned universities they will face cuts to teaching funding and student places if they cluster around the maximum fee level.

Oxford Brookes said it would be reducing the number of on-campus student places by around 10% to 15% (around 1,000 places) to "ensure more high-quality contact time between students and staff".

These places will be redistributed to courses run by the university and further education colleges, at a lower cost of around £6,000.

The institution insisted that taking this into account, average fees will be around £8,000.

Oxford Brookes vice-chancellor Janet Beer said: "I firmly believe this is the right decision. It will lead us to focus even more on improving the qualities of a Brookes degree. We have made this choice in what we believe is the best interests of our students and the region we serve.

"This university has for a long time prided itself on its values and commitment to ensuring higher education is available to people on the basis of ability rather than finance. I believe, given the context, this decision lives up to those values."

More than 30 universities have already declared their intended fee levels for next year, with the majority planning to charge £9,000.

Those planning to charge the maximum are Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, University College London, Manchester, Warwick, Essex, Leeds, Durham, Lancaster, Bath, Birmingham, Loughborough, Exeter, Sussex, Surrey, Liverpool, Aston, Liverpool John Moores, Reading, Kent, Central Lancashire, Leicester and Nottingham.

All universities planning to charge more than £6,000 will have to have their fees approved by the Office for Fair Access (Offa), and sign access agreements showing how they plan to ensure poorer students are not priced out.

MPs voted to raise tuition fees to £6,000 from 2012 at the end of last year, with institutions allowed to charge up to £9,000 only in "exceptional circumstances".

Addressing the Higher Education Funding Council's (HEFCE) annual conference in Birmingham yesterday, Mr Cable warned that the Government's two options of dealing with "collective over-pricing" are cutting places or teaching funding.

He suggested that the Government will look to "reward" the most competitive institutions, which could mean more places handed to private universities and colleges.

Universities who charge high prices but fail to deliver value for money could find themselves "seriously squeezed", he said.