University fees may fall as students hold out for a better deal

200,000 of this year's A-level candidates are expected to miss out on a university place this year

Most universities will soon have to slash planned fee rises – throwing the plans of thousands of A-level candidates into confusion.

A report by the influential Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) today warns that most universities will have to reduce their fees to an average of £7,500 a year as they struggle to fill places.

Its findings come as more than 200,000 of this year's A-level candidates are expected to miss out on a university place this year. Last night it was being claimed many could now decide against re-applying next year when most universities will be charging the new maximum fee of £9,000 a year and wait until 2013 before snapping up cheaper places.

Today, as more than 250,000 young people receive their results, even high-flying students – with three top grade passes – will find themselves looking for a job or contemplating the gap year they had previously turned their backs on in the hope of getting into university before next year's fee rises.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "The Government's fees policy has been one clumsy disaster after another."

Bahram Bekhradnia, director of HEPI and co-author of the report, said: "What we know so far is that universities are going to have to reduce their fees and therefore students might be better off hanging on for another year."

The report warns that most universities will be obliged "if not immediately then within a year or two" to cut their net fees to £7,500 a year.

"They will become unviable very quickly otherwise, losing 8 per cent or more of their students every year," the report says.

The dilemma comes from the Government's decision to allow universities to expand student numbers as long as they recruited students with at least two As and a B grade pass. The HEPI report says that only a handful of élite universities will be able to expand at will.

Other universities "will be vulnerable to losing some of their AAB+ students to more selective, more prestigious institutions and will at the same time be competing with their peers both to hold on to their existing and to recruit additional students".

That could trigger an "arms race of merit-based scholarships" from other universities as they seek to hold on to their brightest students.

Further down the line universities that traditionally attract fewer top-flight graduates "will be forced to reduce their fees and/or greatly increase fee waivers to bring the average net fee down to £7,500. Some may delay the decision for a year but in the medium term there is no credible alternative."

The financial pressures will create "a more polarised sector" with a small number of universities charging £9,000 and the majority (including Russell Group members) charging £7,500 or less, the report concludes.

The Universities minister David Willetts said the new fees regime meant "institutions will have to work much harder to attract students and be explicit about the quality of their teaching and the type of experience they offer".

Today's A-level results are set to show a rise in the percentage of A* and A grades with academics claiming the A* has already become the new A grade.

The increasing reliance on A* grade passes by universities is opposed by headteachers' leaders who believe it favours independent schools where teachers prepare pupils en masse for getting top grade passes.

Q&A

What are the prospects for this year's A-level candidates?

The number of candidates this year is the highest ever – up 1.4 per cent to 669,956. The number of university places remains the same so the numbers without a university place at the end of the day are likely to increase.



Is entering clearing an option for those still without a place?

Do not dismiss it. Even though a sizeable minority of universities are not entering clearing this year, there still could be about 40,000 places to be filled through it. Get cracking on your applications as soon as possible.



What else could they do?

Study abroad. Maastricht University in The Netherlands has set up a fast-track procedure to enrol UK students (and their fees are cheaper than the UK – £1,156 a year). Also, a growing number of firms are offering apprenticeships or to pay university fees if people sign up with them – notably KPMG. They, too, are bracing themselves for calls this morning. This could be the way ahead for the future. A gap year could be an option – the numbers choosing that are down because people want to enrol before next year's fees rises, so there are places available.



Should disappointed candidates defer for two years before re-applying if universities are going to have to cut their fees?

A difficult one that must be down to the individual student's decision. The Government would argue there are enough safeguards in the system to provide support for those wanting to re-apply next year.

Richard Garner

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Year 4 Teachers needed for day to day supply across the region

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 2 Teachers needed for day to day supply

£110 - £130 per day + Competitve rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Yea...

Year 6 Teachers needed for day to day supply roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis