Don’t be put off by the University of East Anglia’s planned tuition fees, says Norwich MP

A Liberal Democrat MP has urged young people not to be deterred by the cost of higher education after the University of East Anglia announced plans to charge �9,000-a-year tuition fees.

Vice-chancellor Edward Acton has confirmed that UEA will join the growing band of universities wanting to charge the maximum sum in fees from September next year.

He said the move was necessary to enable the UEA to improve its position in the top 20 of Britain's higher education institutions and to protect and enhance its student experience and quality of education.

Norwich South Lib Dem MP Simon Wright, who opposed the tuition fees increase, said he was disappointed with the proposal. He added: 'It was certainly the government's intention that the �9,000 tuition fee would be the exception rather than the rule.

'It's important to recognise that the government will need to approve all the offers that are made. If the UEA offer does clear that hurdle, I will continue to work with the UEA to ensure that students get the best possible deal as a result.


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'People may fear that the size of the fee will be a deterrent, but I will be doing all I can to encourage young people who feel that university is right for them to apply.'

However, some parents have told of their fears that the proposed fees will prohibit their children from going to university.

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Kerry Davis, of Eaton, in Norwich, said: 'As a parent of two teenage children, the option of us being able to send them both to university looks very remote as we could not afford to pay the �9,000 tuition fees.

'The government has said about help being offered for low-income families but nothing for the vast majority of hard-working families earning an average wage but receiving no help or benefits, who just seem to pay more and more in tax and financially are worse off than they were 10 years ago.'

Prof Acton promised that a package of measures would see almost one-third of new undergraduates benefiting from 'some form of financial support'. He also pledged that charging �9,000-a-year for all courses would enable the Norwich campus to continue to provide a 'first-rate' education.

Tom Dolton, spokesman for the student union at UEA, said members were disappointed with the proposed �9,000-a-year fees. He added: 'Whilst we reiterate our stance on free education, we are confident that the targets and processes the university has put in place will ensure the continuing improvement of the student experience of UEA students.

'We plan to continue working with the university to ensure that there will be continual commitment to working to improve widening participation of students applying to the university.'

UEA's fees proposals have been submitted to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) for approval. The organisation can veto any proposed fees over �6,000-a-year if universities are not doing enough to widen higher education participation.

Prof Acton said: 'There has been some very acute soul-searching in terms of the risk that we will frighten off families who will believe headlines that are a little bit misleading about what it means.

'Looking at our fees, it feels very difficult to come in at the average. The arguments look terribly strong: you've got to go to �9,000 if you have ambition.'

Earlier this month, University Campus Suffolk said it intended to charge fees of �7,500-8,000. Norwich University College of the Arts has said it will not be making an announcement until early May.

kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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