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University fees commission launched

An independent commission is being set up to examine the impact of increased university fees, especially on students from low income backgrounds.

The panel will be led by Will Hutton, principal of Hertford College,Oxford, and will work with Ucas to analyse data from applications, offers and acceptances. Its first report is expected in approximately six weeks time.

Hutton said: “It is incredibly important that we provide an independent check on the biggest reforms for higher education in a generation, particularly looking at what impact higher fees have on prospective students from less privileged backgrounds.

“We will be keeping an open mind; the aim will be to produce a dispassionate and authoritative analysis of the data as it emerges.”

Recent data showed that applications fromUKstudents forUKuniversities are down by 7%. From this autumn, fees will be increased to a maximum of £9,000 per year. Scottish students studying inScotlandwill not have to pay but applicants from other countries would have to pay up to £9,000.

Liam Burns, National Union of Students president, said: “Throughout the application process for this year we’ve seen worrying signs that there are fewer university applicants, many of whom have seen their ambitions suffer at the hands of caps on student number caps in previous years and now face new barriers to access.

“A balanced and truly independent analysis that puts aside any of the panelists’ preconceptions about the merits or otherwise of the fees system is vital to ensure vulnerable students do not have to abandon their ambitions in higher education.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “No-one should be put off going to university for financial reasons. All eligible new students will not have to pay tuition charges upfront, there will be more financial support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and everyone will make lower monthly loan repayments than they do under the current system once they are in well paid work.

“We have ensured that universities take fair access more seriously than ever before.”

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Image c. Christoph Wagener


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