National Union of Students


Press Release   •   Jul 26, 2012 00:01 BST

The National Union of Students (NUS) today (Thursday 26 July 2012) responded to the publication by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) of decisions on access agreements for the 2013-14 academic year, and which are submitted by universities that wish to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 a year.

The OFFA report shows that following new guidance to institutions to consult students' unions in drawing up access agreements, those unions had worked locally to improve last years' package, with £3m more overall than the previous year in upfront maintenance, £34 million more in student choice on support and £20 million more in retention funding. Meanwhile £20 million less has been allocated to partial fee waivers, which only benefit those graduates who have paid off their remaining loan balances.

NUS warned that despite these local students' unions' wins, the overall package of available bursaries and support would fall by £71 million between 2009 and 2016, while many institutions would cut financial support across the period.

With all universities permitted by OFFA to have an average fee over £6,000 in 2013-14 and with nearly a third with minimum fees at £9,000, NUS said Ministers' had wrongly provided assurances that such fees would only be set in exceptional circumstances.

Liam Burns, NUS President said:

“When students’ unions are consulted in the development of access agreements, they are winning local battles to ensure their universities' funds are diverted away from partial fee waivers, which benefit only the richest graduates, towards upfront support and student choice.”

“Students are winning these local victories, however, at a time when the total spending on bursaries and scholarships is projected to fall by 2016."

“Ministers repeatedly assured Parliament in 2010 that average fees over £6,000 would only be allowed in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Those who doubted them have been proved right as these figures show that next year all English universities will have an average fee of more than £6,000 and that a third will have minimum fees of £9,000.”


• Total bursary and scholarship spending in 09/10 was £369.5m but predicted in their access agreements by 16/17 is £298.3m, a projected reduction of £71m

• The estimated sector average undergraduate tuition fee for 2013/14 is £8,507 (£8,385 in 2012-13)

• When Aimhigher was closed it was a £78m saving- the cut to Aimhigher has directly hit students pockets because cash has been transferred by universities from bursaries and scholarships into “outreach”

• Fee waivers spending is set to rise to £240m by 16/17, swallowing up all 137m of the Government’s so called “National Scholarship Scheme”

• 69 out of 131 HEIs will have a minimum fee of over £6,0000 despite ministers telling Parliament this would only happen in 'exceptional circumstances'

• ALL HEIS in England will have an average fee of over £6,000 despite ministers telling Parliament this would only happen in 'exceptional circumstances'

• 41 of 131 HEIs will have a minimum fee of the maximum of £9,000

Note “student choice” where people can opt for a discount on fees or a bursary or scholarship not counted in these numbers

NUS (National Union of Students) is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions.

We are a confederation of 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through our member students' unions, we represent the interests of more than seven million students.