What might lower tuition fees mean for Norfolk's universities?
PUBLISHED: 12:21 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:02 22 February 2019
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Norwich universities say the government may need to step up financial support for the sector should a hotly-anticipated review recommend a cut to tuition fees.
An independent panel led by Philip Augar is assessing whether the current system – where fees of up to £9,250 can be charged – offers value for money to students and taxpayers.
It forms part of a review of post 18 study which is expected to be published next month.
On Friday the Russell Group of research universities and seven charities said in a joint statement that, should the Augar Review recommend that tuition fees be lowered, universities could offer fewer places or cut courses if the government did not plug the funding gap.
At Norwich University of the Arts, many courses are workshop or studio-based and need specialist equipment, making them more expensive to run.
The university’s vice chancellor Prof John Last said: “There has been a great deal of speculation about the Augar Review and we await the final report and the government’s response with interest.
“If speculation around a fee cut proves to be correct, the key question will be how ministers propose to address the funding gap that will be created.
“The costs of providing studio and workshop-based higher education are significantly higher than many other courses.”
Prof David Richardson, vice chancellor of the University of East Anglia (UEA), said the Augar Review could present opportunities for universities to rethink their offering, for example by increasing degree apprenticeship courses or introducing more flexible programmes of study.
He feels that UEA could withstand any tuition fee changes due to its “broad” subject base.
“There will be different impacts on universities depending on their mix of subjects and UEA’s mix makes us very resilient,” he said.
Like many universities UEA receives top-up fees from the government for more expensive subjects to teach, including medicine – a programme of support which is likely to continue if fees are lowered.
There is speculation that the government may enforce caps on student numbers on courses receiving top-ups – but Prof Richardson cautioned that such a move could restrict access to higher education.