2012 University Fees for Home (UK) and EU Students – Questions and Answers

From September 2012 Universities in England will be allowed to charge tuition fees of up to £9000 per year, subject to meeting a set of access criteria which must be agreed with the Office of Fair Access (OFFA.)

The Government proposal to increase the level of fees was backed by Parliament in December 2010 and it is currently in the final process of becoming law.

Students coming to Aston and other UK universities in 2011 will not be subject to the new fees regime, neither in their first year nor as they progress through their degree courses - including the placement year or year abroad. The new regime only applies to students beginning a course from 2012 and beyond.

When will the fee changes take effect ?

From the 2012 intake – so for any UK/EU students applying through UCAS for a place for 2012 entry.

What is the Government’s policy for 2012 entry and beyond?

The Government is raising the cap on tuition fees for UK and EU students from the 2011 entry level of £3375.

Universities in England will be allowed, subject to conditions agreed with OFFA, to charge up to £9000 a year in tuition fees.  This money will be loaned to students by the Student Loans Company, as is the case today.

Any University wanting to charge more than £6000 a year for tuition fees must put in place measures to help students, from less affluent backgrounds, attend University, and also to encourage participation in Higher Education by groups that have traditionally been under represented. These measures are likely to include support in the form of bursaries, fee discounts and various types of support for learning for students at University, and outreach programmes, summer schools and master classes for potential students.

All Universities will be required to make available a standard set of information about their courses.  This will include student satisfaction; teaching provision including such details as numbers of teaching hours in lectures and seminars and assessment procedures; employability of graduates etc.  The final list of information is currently being agreed.  Each University must also have a Student Charter which makes clear the expectations a student should have of the University, and what the University will expect of its students.

How and when will tuition fees be paid back?

Just like the current system no full time UK or EU student will have to pay up front to be a student at an English University.

All full-time UK students (and many part-time ones) will be entitled to study now, and pay back later - when they have graduated/left University and are earning a good salary.

Fees will be paid to the University by the Government whilst students are studying, so there will be no financial burden on families or on students.

The threshold at which graduates start to pay back the fees will rise from £15,000 today, under the current system, to £21,000 in the new system 1 .  This threshold will rise with inflation.

A graduate will pay back 9% of their income above the £21000 threshold.  This will be deducted at source like income tax.  Essentially graduates will be taxed at a higher rate to pay back their fees.

This means for example that a graduate earning £25,000 a year, around £1,500 per month after tax, will contribute around £30 per month to the cost of their degree.  A graduate who is not earning, for whatever reason, will make no contribution. So if you are on maternity leave, between jobs, caring for a parent or young child, or unemployed any contributions will be suspended.

The interest rate on the loan is inflation only for someone earning £21,000, rising to 3% plus inflation for anyone earning over £41,000

Any fees not repaid within 30 years will be cancelled – no one will make any further payments after the 30 year period.

Several newspapers have calculated that around 40% of students will never pay back all of their loans.  This figure has not been confirmed by Government.

In summary, the new system will require graduates to contribute to the cost of their degree according to how much they earn – providing they earn over £21,000.

What fees will Aston be charging?

We are proposing to set a tuition fee of £9,000 a year for all undergraduate degree courses. For further information please refer to Aston's fees announcement.

OFFA (Office for Fair Access via the UK Government) has approved fee levels for all institutions in July 2011. In adddition Scottish and Welsh Universities will also be charging English students £9,000 for most courses.

Aston’s highly regarded sandwich placement year will not be subject to a £9,000 tuition fee. We will support our placement year and year abroad programmes with substantial fee reductions for that year – as we do currently. The fee will be £1,000 for the Aston placement year or year abroad. This is considerable less than most other UK Univerities. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the Sunday Times, over 85%of employed Aston graduates go into graduate level employment within six months of graduation, and the fact that around 60% take a sandwich placement year in business or a year abroad is a contributory factor to this strong record of employability.

Can a University charge different fees for different courses?

In theory, yes.

We don’t yet know whether some Universities will choose to do this.  To teach a medicine or a science degree is more costly than an arts or humanities degree so it is a possibility, but the Government has indicated that it will continue to provide additional funding to Universities for high cost courses of importance to the country, such as medicine and engineering, so the fees for such courses should not be higher than other subjects.

At Aston we have no plans to charge different fees for different courses, however some of our Foundation Degrees in partnership with Industry will charge variable fees.

That is because we believe that a multi-tiered fee structure could lead to a multi-tiered student community.  We believe that all students should have equal access to all facilities and student support, and be equally eligible for the benefits of an Aston education.

What about maintenance grants, loans and living expenses?

A maintenance grant or loan is designed to help with living costs such as accommodation, food and travel.

Students are entitled to take out a loan – which is repayable – to provide further support with living expenses. If you study at Aston that loan could be up to £5,500 per annum. If you study at Aston and live at home you could still take out a loan but the maximum amount would be £4,375.

If your family has a household income of  £25,000 or less you are entitled to receive a non repayable grant of £3,250 for each year you are studying 3 .

If your family has a household income of between £25,000 and £42,600 you are entitled to a grant of between £50 and £3250 for each year you are studying. You will not have to pay back this grant.

If your family has a household income of more than £42,600 then you will not be eligible for a grant – you will need to take out a loan if you need help with living expenses.

What will the fee changes mean for students?

No full time UK or EU undergraduate student will have to pay fees up front to study at Aston or any other University.  The fees will be repaid when that student has graduated and is earning over £21000 2 .

Modelling indicates that the lowest earning 25% of graduates will pay back less than they do today.  High earners will pay back more than they do today.

What help is available to students from lower income backgrounds?

The Government has set up the National Scholarship Programme to support students from less affluent backgrounds.  Details are available here 4.

We do not want fees to put anyone off from applying to Aston. Aston has always welcomed students from a wide range of backgrounds. We select students on merit and will continue to ensure that talent and potential are the only factors which dictate who can come to study at Aston.  We will continue to support fair access for students from the least well-off families and are in the process of finalising a range of bursaries and financial support packages that will be announced shortly. We are also developing a range of programmes to help our students become Global Citizens, including the opportunity to study a foreign language and support with entrepreneurship.

Are there any other changes being introduced at the same time?

There are other changes being made to University funding – the overall Higher Education budget is being reduced by 40% which was announced in the October 2010 Spending Review.

Universities are looking hard at their structures, processes and staffing to ensure they are as lean, efficient and student-focussed as possible. We are currently reviewing many of our internal processes to ensure they are the best and most cost effective they can be.  At Aston we are proud of our focus on student support and student employability – over 85% of our graduates go on to a graduate level job within six months, putting us in 5th position in the UK and compares to a UK average of around 70%.
In recognition of outstanding achievement and for promoting entrepreneurship, Aston has also recently been awarded the title of ‘Midlands Enterprising University of the year’.

Do cuts to capital spending mean the facilities and buildings will suffer?

At Aston we have finance in place to build the second phase of new student accommodation, complete the library refurbishment and to rebuild our own campus sports facilities. Aston is investing heavily in its facilities. The first phase of the Library refurbishment and new student residencies are completed and our on campus sports centre and swimming pool was completed in September 2011.

We are currently constructing new buildings for two leading research facilities on campus: the Aston Brain Centre developing advanced brain imaging technologies and studying brain development in children, and the European Bioenergy Research Institute working on innovative ways to convert carbon containing wastes into different forms of renewable energy including oils, bio-methane and hydrogen. In total around £250 million is being invested in the Aston campus over the next few years.

Read more about campus developments

So much is changing. Is it still worth going to University?

A degree is still the best investment most people can make.  On average a person with a degree will earn over £100,000 more, across their working life, than someone who finished their education at A Level or the equivalent.

Aston has a strong track record of high graduate employability stretching back over many years.  The placement year or year abroad that we offer as part of our degrees, taken up by around 70% of our students, is a major factor in helping develop confidence and employability skills.

Aston is targeted by the UK’s top companies and organisations.  According to the 2011 High Flyers survey,  Aston was again rated highly – in the top 20 most popular UK Universities with the Top 100 graduate employers in the UK.

Aston is also introducing many programmes that will benefit students as they build their career – the opportunity to learn a second or additional language as a part of every course, support for anyone who wishes to become an entrepreneur or develop a business, and the development of global citizenship to help our graduates play leadership roles in our increasingly international and interconnected professions.