FROM PARENTS' GUIDE: AN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Fee facts: Is the price right?

The implications of tuition fees for new students

According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), as of this March, applications to UK universities were down 3.4 per cent on last year, the first drop in six years. From this September, universities and colleges were permitted to charge tuition fees of up to £3,000 per year for new students, and most institutions are charging the full amount. The question from commentators and opposition politicians is whether these two facts are connected.

The key change is that while under the previous system students paid for tuition up front, the new fees can be paid off following graduation, once yearly income reaches £15,000. This is achieved by means of financial assistance. A non-means-tested fee loan is available to all graduates. In addition, a partly means-tested loan has been introduced to cover living costs. A further grant of up to £2,700 is available to assist students from low-income households, alongside a raft of new bursaries offered by colleges and local authorities.

47 per cent of sixth form students questioned in a survey by the Universities Marketing Forum stated that inability to afford fees was either "quite likely" or "very likely" to deter them from applying. "Fees are one of the things that put me off," says Danny Parr, 19, who left school after performing exceptionally in AS Levels. "Knowing how much debt I'd end up in for a course I may end up disliking would depress me."

However, the drop in applications appears to mirror the increase shown in last year's figures. This could be interpreted as school and college leavers neglecting gap years in order to take advantage of the final year of the old system.

As Alan Johnson, education secretary and architect of the new tuition fee system points out, in 2010 a graduate earning £18,000 a year will be paying back their loan at a rate of just £5.20 a week and "by that time it's probably the price of a pint." Given that over their lifetime graduates are said to earn, on average, £150,000 more than their non-university educated contemporaries, in effect new students will be in a better financial position than their predecessors.

However, there is controversy over the variable nature of fees. The current legislation retains the £3,000 price cap until 2010, but there is pressure from universities for these restrictions to be lifted. If institutions can charge varying amounts for admission, the allegation is that a situation in which elite institutions imposing higher fees will accentuate a social class gap in Higher Education, already described by former education secretary Charles Clarke as "a national disgrace".

Key to the Government's legislation is the idea that a more market-orientated system must be introduced in order to allow British universities to compete on a global playing field, alongside the US Ivy League colleges. This injects the Higher Education sector with a commercialisation that many interest groups, such as the National Union of Students (NUS), find disquieting. The Government's message is that, viewed in perspective, the new system should encourage rather than deter students from all backgrounds from applying to university.

Further info on the new tuition fee and financial assistance regimes is on the UCAS website at www.ucas.ac.uk/studentfinance/index.html

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn