Cambridge ‘planning to raise fees to £9,000’

Cambridge University is considering plans to charge tuition fees of £9,000, with means-tested support for poorer students, the BBC News website has learned.

Proposals from its working group show the university has plans to set fees at the maximum level of £9,000 a year for every subject.

Poorer students would be offered means-tested reductions of up to £3,000.

Cambridge said the report would help it decide on fees and student support.

The university’s students’ union has warned that raising fees must not put off poorer applicants.

The proposals have been submitted to the university’s council for a final decision.

The group set up to consider the level of fees is strongly recommending that a single flat-rate should be charged for all courses and colleges from 2012.

A Cambridge University spokesman said: “The report and consultation will help the university’s council decide what arrangements it wishes to propose for the fees, financial support for students and access provisions to Offa by its deadline of March 31”.


It comes after MPs backed plans to raise university fees to a maximum of £9,000, with a lower limit of £6,000.

An internal report seen by the BBC News website argues that to charge any less than the maximum would be “fiscally irresponsible” and would raise doubts about the university’s “commitment to excellence”.

Before the vote ministers claimed the upper limit would only be applied in “exceptional circumstances”.

But the report from the Cambridge working group says it expects “most if not all our peers” to charge the maximum fee.

The university wants to offset the increase by offering its own fee waiver which would reduce fees by £3,000 plus offer a bursary of £1,625 for students from families with an income less than £25,000.

“Cambridge must ensure that it commits to a bursary system that is most financially beneficial to its poorest students”

Rahul Mansigani
Cambridge student union president

This reduction or fee waiver would mean that for low-income students at Cambridge, tuition fees would effectively be £6,000, which is likely to be less than many other less-prestigious universities.

There would also be a tapered means-tested level of fee waiver up to a family income of £42,000.

This is likely to provide some level of extra support for about a quarter of students, with the aim of the combined subsidies and lost fee income costing no more than £10m per year.

State school pupils

The report’s recommendations, which are due to be decided upon next week, also set out what the university should promise in terms of widening access.

It says that it will suggest raising its percentage of state pupils to between 61% and 63%, up from the current 58%, in plans to be submitted to the Office for Fair Access.

But it notes that any higher levels would be “not achievable” because of the likely negative impact of raising fees on recruiting state students.

Cambridge University’s Student Union President Rahul Mansigani said that the raising of the fee level meant that “the need for proactive access work from the university is more important than ever”.

“Cambridge must ensure that it commits to a bursary system that is most financially beneficial to its poorest students – the only way of doing this is a substantial maintenance bursary.”

At present students in Cambridge can receive a means-tested bursary of £3,400 per year.

Under the working group proposals this would be lowered to £1,625, with more subsidy now being targeted at reducing the impact of higher tuition fees.

The student union leader says that government cuts to higher education risk a “devastating effect” on aims to widen participation.

Budget cuts

Universities across England are working on setting their tuition fee levels for 2012.

Oxford University is holding its own debate on fee levels on Tuesday.

This week the government is expected to give details of what universities wanting to charge more than £6,000 will need to do to protect access for poorer students.

But universities have warned that raising fees to more than £6,000 will be necessary simply to cover the cost of the budget cuts announced by the government.

The National Union of Students has predicted that more than half of universities will charge the maximum.

The government is also facing tough budget decisions about funding students.

If more universities charge the full amount it will put pressure on finance for student support, which already faces the prospect of wider demands from part-time students and new private providers.

There have been questions raised about whether pressure on student support funding will mean some universities facing a cut in places.

Are you planning to go to Cambridge University? Would tuition fees of £9,000 affect your choice of university? Send us your comments using the form below.

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

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