Everything you need to know about those fees... and how much you pay

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The Independent Online

Tuition fees were introduced in September 1998. Anyone beginning a higher education course since then has had to make a contribution towards them (except for degrees in certain professions related to medicine.)

Tuition fees were introduced in September 1998. Anyone beginning a higher education course since then has had to make a contribution towards them (except for degrees in certain professions related to medicine.)

Why were tuition fees introduced?Because numbers entering higher education have increased. The Government says that the country can no longer afford to provide completely free higher education and believes that students - who will be higher than average earners - should pay a part of the cost.

So students pay a contribution?Yes. The full cost per year per course can be from £6,500 upwards, depending on subject. (Overseas students pay in full.) The Government pays most of the cost for home students

How much will you have to pay?That will depend on your family's income. Contributions are means tested. It is estimated that about a third of students pay nothing. The rest pay in part or in full. The maximum amount is revised each year in line with inflation. The most that you will have to pay in the academic year 2000/2001 will be £1,050.

When will you have to pay?That's up to individual unis and colleges. They could ask for all the money at the beginning of the year. Many allow students to pay in instalments.

How do you get help towards payment of your fees?

By applying to your Local Education Authority (LEA) (in England and Wales), or your Education and Library Board (in Northern Ireland). They will assess your income and that of your parents. They will then tell you how much - if anything - you have to pay. They also use this assessment to work out how much student loan you can take out.

By the time you read this, application forms should have been distributed to schools and colleges. When you collect yours, you will need to read carefully the instructions regarding deadlines for completion. These vary - and your own authority will have its own.

As a general guide, the Department for Education and Employment (for England and Wales) says that you should send all the necessary information to your LEA by 19 June if you want your financial support for the start of term.

What about Scotland?As we went to press, legislation was proposed that, if implemented, will put Scottish students in a very different situation.

Scottish students who attend Scottish universities will pay no fees while they are studying. However, they will have to pay £2,000 in a "graduate endowment tax" when their earnings reach £10,000.

In addition, students from the lowest income families will receive bursaries of up to £2,000. Scottish students who study elsewhere in the UK will be treated in the same way as other UK students - as described above.

More information is available from:The DfEE free information line, tel 0800 731 9133, and at www.dfee.gov.uk/support/index.htmDepartment of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment for Northern Ireland, tel 02891 279279Your awarding authority. (Please note that in Scotland, if the system does not change, this is the Student Awards Agency for Scotland, tel 0131 476 8212)

beryldixon@hants23.freeserve.co.uk

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