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University tuition fees: new rules to improve access

  • Published: Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Rules on what English universities have to do to improve access if they charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 have been published. These include targeting financial support at the most disadvantaged and setting themselves ambitious targets for student intake and retention.

Guidance for universities and colleges

2012-13 tuition fees

More about 2012-13 tuition fees and student finance

Universities and colleges will use the guidance, produced by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), to draw up ‘access agreements’ for 2012-13.

Access agreements detail the fees that universities and colleges plan to charge and the measures they’ll introduce to improve access and student retention.

For example, universities and colleges wanting to charge over £6,000 will have to:

  • do more to encourage applications from under-represented groups
  • target financial support such as bursaries and fee waivers more tightly at the most disadvantaged
  • take part in the new National Scholarship Programme (NSP), matching the funds from government
  • set themselves stretching targets, including targets relating to their student intake and their outreach activities

From 2012-13, all institutions that want to charge more than the new basic fee of £6,000 must have an access agreement approved by OFFA.

Director of Fair Access, Sir Martin Harris, said: "We want all institutions to focus more on outcomes. It is true that much progress has already been made in widening participation to the sector as a whole – over the last five years alone the chances of a young person from the lowest participation neighbourhood going to university has increased by 30 per cent. But progress in improving access to the most selective universities has remained virtually flat.

"We will have the highest expectations of institutions who have the furthest to go in achieving a representative student body and who want to charge fees towards the top end."

Universities and colleges have until Tuesday 19 April 2011 to submit their 2012-13 access agreements.

OFFA will then assess their agreements and announce all agreements that have been approved by 11 July 2011.

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