Tuition fees in England and support for access

In the aftermath of the details released yesterday by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) on tuition fees and access programmes in England, the 1994 Group of universities issued the following comment:

‘The 1994 Group of leading universities has today pledged to balance investments in widening participation with the need to uphold and enhance high quality student experiences. The Group’s commitment comes on the day that the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) reveals that 1994 Group universities will, on average, spend 26.2% of tuition fee income above £6000 on measures to widen participation in 2012, rising to 28.4% in 2015.’

Where a university is charging £9,000 (as is planned by all but one of the 1994 Group), 28.4 per cent of the fee income above £6,000 will be £852. This in turn will represent just under 9.5 per cent of the total fee income. When the remaining state support for teaching is added, that percentage will reduce further.

While it is obviously highly laudable that institutions are focusing on access initiatives, and that they are being encouraged by Offa to be more ambitious in that respect, it has to be said that contrary to what is suggested in the 1994 Group statement, 9.5 per cent of fee income is not an impressive investment in access, and will not necessarily lead to a statistically significant change in opportunities for the disadvantaged.

It would of course be unfair to criticise the 1994 Group, who are working constructively with what they have been given; but there is still much more work to be done on what would constitute a reasonable investment in access in a system where, increasingly, higher education participation is fee-based. But the investment that universities will need to make in such a setting will probably need to be closer to 20 per cent of fee income than 9.5 per cent.

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3 Comments on “Tuition fees in England and support for access”

  1. I don’t see that it would be all that unfair to criticise the 1994 Group. Their members are educational charities, after all, so working for the educationally disadvantaged should be amongst their highest priorities.

    Moreover the claim that they have ‘led the sector’ in delivering succesful outreach programmes would seem to be straightforwardly false if the HESA performance indicators mean anything.

    Of course it would be unfair to criticise *only* the 1994 Group.

  2. Eddie Says:

    The politicians and educationists very often misunderstand where the problems are and what needs to be done to find solutions to the problems. The terms “ access and disadvantaged” are very often misunderstood when HE is concerned. There is a general notion that the introduction of tuition fee will limit the access to the disadvantaged. The argument about access was also raging for decades when the HE was free in England, and the 11+ was removed. The discussion of the HE beyond the reach of the disadvantaged is a political hobby horse. Indeed, Ferdinand in a previous post a few months ago said that England even after the introduction of tuition fee is a 5% percentage better than Scotland (30% against 25%, I guess) in terms of HE access to the disadvantaged is concerned.

    Successive governments in England rightly focused their effort at the primary and secondary school levels to improve the situation at the tertiary level. Just taking Group94 , the tier2 group as a case in point, the access problem arises mainly among the disadvantaged not at the entry level to university, but well before that at the secondary level, and primary level too. As a past governor of 2 comprehensive schools in England, whenever the teachers presented that their pupils were a thumping success having achieved say 70% of A-D grades, I used to ask them ( and got menacing stares in return!) to break this statistics in terms of number of students achieving each grade. Every time, it showed that the 70% was contributed by those who achieved C and D grades.- hardly adequate to enter a Group 94 university where the UCAS average point in 3 subject profile at A2, is an average BBB or BBC.

    This coalition government in England particularly the LibDems wing strongly believes that tier 1 and 2 universities have to do more for providing access. They are barking at the wrong tree. Many Libdem –controlled city boroughs in England, even where I live, have comprehensive schools which have poor reputation is sending their pupils to tier2 universities like the Group 94. Interested parents in these secondary schools, make immense sacrifices to use the services of well known tutorial colleges to get better tutors and better teaching which help their children to get better grades.

    The tuition fee is a loan and the maintenance money is also a loan and no upfront payment is involved. Hence, the access problem to to those disadvantaged with the minimum entry grades does not arise in so far as Group 94 is concerned. Group94 are not the problem.

  3. Vincent Says:

    What they are saying is that it will take ten paying full fee to cover one that requires aid. And this is being somehow flagged as being deserving of pats on the back.
    Why the hell do they not charge £24.000 for those that can afford it an bring in two on the extra cash. What’s a year at a minor school these days anyway. I’ll bet there isn’t much by way of change from the £24.000.
    It would be my guess this is just someone conversation over the boiled mutton that’s made it to policy.

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