In an official ministerial statement, British Universities Minister Jo Johnson gave the higher education institutions the green light to increase their tuition fees above the current £9,000 cap starting with 2017 academic year.
Depending on the individual students’ contracts, the rise of 2.8 per cent, which is in line with the expected inflation rates, may apply to both current and prospective students. Students’ loans for living costs will increase to £8,430 outside London and £11,002 in the capital city.
Most likely, the tuition fees will continue to increase over the next couple of years to reach £10,000, writes Rachael Pells of The Independent. The government is planning to apply a new mechanism called the “teaching excellence framework,” meaning the rise of the tuition fees will be linked to the quality of teaching, notes Sean Coughlan of The BBC. In the beginning, most higher institutions probably will not comply with the excellence criteria, so their upper increase cap will be £9,250 per year.
However, several universities included Kent, Durham, and Royal Holloway have started advertising the updated fees on their websites already without having gained permission. Numerous MPs defined that as “disgraceful arrogance.”
Javier Espinoza of The Telegraph writes that according to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, the government decision has let young people down. She emphasized the unaffordable student debt levels that make it difficult for smart students from underprivileged backgrounds to access the higher education they deserve.
In his response to the tuition fees’ increase announcement, Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, pointed out that rising fees would only add unnecessary burden to student debt, which has already been shown to be the highest in the English-speaking world:
“A real concern is that the removal of maintenance grants will almost certainly deter poorer students, who now face debts of over £50,000 on graduation.”
Lampl also commented that the decision does nothing to improve the situation with mature and part-time students, whose numbers have decreased significantly since the last fees rise in 2012.
Baroness Burt, the Liberal Democrat universities spokeswoman, publicly accused the government of breaking their 2010 deal. According to her, telling the students that their fees will increase at the same time as freezing the point at which they have to return them back “a kick in the teeth.” Burt added:
“If universities need additional financial aid then let’s have a proper discussion about where that money comes from, rather than pretending that this is somehow a quid pro quo for providing the quality of teaching students should already be able to expect.”
As the National Union of Students spokesman confirmed, increasing tuition fees for current students may lead to breaking the consumer protection law, reports AOL, as the rise had not been advertised at the point of admission.
The Liberal Democrats stated they would force a vote by MPs in the fall in a bid to stop an increase to the current £9,000 limit. The Labour Party encouraged ministers to have an open debate with the public on the plans to raise fees.
The National Union of Students has announced a protest demonstration for November.