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After higher education institutions complied with a mandate to resubmit plans on their methods to increase access for underrepresented groups, the final decisions have been made on tuition fees in England and Wales, to go into effect at the start of the 2012/13 academic year. On 11 July and 12 July, respectively, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in England released access agreements, thereby granting English and Welsh higher education institutions the right to charge near the GBP 9 000 (EUR 10 147) per year maximum, which was initially proposed last year (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2010). In England, the average tuition will stand at GBP 8 393 (approximately EUR 9 465). In Wales, the average tuition will be even higher, at almost GBP 8 800 (EUR 9 959). Though both averages are far higher than their respective governments had anticipated, both OFFA and HEFCW were satisfied with the resubmitted access proposals, which required institutions wishing to charge above the GBP 6 000 (around EUR 6 788) threshold to lay forth plans to improve enrolment of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Meanwhile, the Guardian is reporting that England’s Home Office Secretary Theresa May has publicly rejected her department’s assessment of the economic impact of the new student visa amendments, which went into effect in early July (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, June 2011). May is arguing that the GBP 3.6 billion (nearly EUR 4.1 billion) expected loss to the British economy because of the new student visa rules is an overestimation and does not take into full account the savings to public services. Instead, May has requested that the migration advisory committee create an alternative estimate. Despite the final decision on English tuition fees, a clear picture of higher education funding in England has yet to emerge.
Scotland responded to the tuition developments in England and Wales with defensive measures. Michael Russell, the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Cabinet Secretary of Scotland, announced the government’s proposal to allow Scottish higher education institutions to charge up to GBP 9 000 (EUR 10 147) to students from England, Northern Ireland and Wales beginning in 2012/13. Fees in Scotland are currently the lowest in the UK, at GBP 1 820 (around EUR 2 052) and there are fears that the new tuition structures in England and Wales will result in an overwhelming influx of non-Scottish UK students. Final decisions on fee levels for Scottish higher education institutions – which have so far voluntarily capped fees to the same level as in England and Wales – are expected to be unveiled by 30 September 2011.
Office for Fair Access