EXETER University has been condemned both by its students’ guild and lecturers’ union after announcing yesterday that tuition fees are to increase to £9,250 from autumn 2017, with the increase applying to current as well as new students.
Toby Gladwin, President, Exeter Students’ Guild, said: ‘The Students’ Guild opposes any increase in tuition fees and we have repeatedly made our position clear to the University. I believe that there shouldn’t be any financial barriers to accessing higher education.
‘Increasing tuition fees further raises barriers. I will continue to represent this position locally to the University and nationally, along with the rest of the Sabb team …
‘We are challenging the University to change their position and NOT charge returning students over £9,000.’
The UCU lecturers’ union, said: ‘The proposed fee rise hasn’t yet been approved by parliament so advertising higher fee levels at this stage risks causing confusion and anger amongst students, while doing nothing to quell concerns that universities are simply after as much cash as they can get. The government needs to urgently rethink its plans for further fee increases which will saddle graduates with spiralling levels of debt.’
On the last day before the parliamentary summer break, the government published details of plans to allow universities to increase fees to £9,250 from 2017-18, scrapping the maximum upper limit introduced during the controversial trebling of tuition fees in 2012.
The plan would allow universities assessed as having ‘high teaching standards’ to increase fees in line with inflation, calculated as 2.8% for next year. Universities had begun to advertise these higher fees for students about to apply this autumn, for next year’s courses, but Exeter is also applying the increase to students already at the university.
Opposition MPs were angry that the higher fees were being announced before the Higher Education Research Bill, currently before Parliament, had been approved. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrat MPs have warned the government that they intend to block the planned increases.
Labour’s education spokesman Gordon Marsden last month accused ministers of a ‘disgraceful’ attempt to ‘sneak out’ the increase. John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, accused universities of ‘disgraceful arrogance’ in advertising higher fees before Parliament had approved them.
Universities have argued that a fixed upper limit of £9,000 has meant that the value of fees is being steadily eroded by inflation. They have also voiced concern about the legal requirement to provide consumer information about forthcoming higher fees to students applying this autumn, though a legal maximum of £9,000 remains in place until the proposed increase is approved.