An internal report released by Cambridge University has recommended that the university should charge the maximum £9,000 level of tuition fees from 2012, with means tested support for poorer students.
Following a meeting on the 27th January 2011, the university Planning and Resources Committee (PRC) working group has released a report recommending that “The level of tuition fee charged from 2012 entry should be the maximum permissible, i.e. £9,000”.
The report further recommended that the university should charge a single tuition fee “independent of subject or college.”
While the measures outlined in the report are only recommendations, in a statement a spokesperson for the university said: “The report and the responses to the consultation will help the University’s Council decide what arrangements it wishes to propose for the fees, financial support for students and access provisions to OFFA by its deadline of 31 March.”
The Working Group, described by the spokesperson as “a working party made up of senior academic, College and student representatives”, said: “Even with a £9,000 fee, the University and Colleges are still carrying the burden of a significant loss per student.”
The report further undermined claims by ministers that universities would not all attempt to charge the top rate of fees for competitive reasons.
“It is expected that most if not all of our peers will charge the maximum fee. To charge less than £9,000 might raise questions about our commitment to excellence since a reduced fee in the long term could only be sustained by a reducing costs and hence quality,” the report said.
In a statement on the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) website, the president, Rahul Mansigani, said: “With a tripling of the standard fee to £9000, the need for proactive Access work from the University is more important than ever. Cambridge must ensure that it commits to a bursary system that is most financially beneficial to its poorest students- the only way of doing this is a substantial maintenance bursary.”
The PRC working group report recommends “a Fee Waiver of £3,000 per annum and a bursary of £1,625 per annum should be offered to all students from families with household income of less than £25,000 per annum.” The move has raised concerns about the bursary system.
The new recommended bursary is less than half the amount of the maximum means tested bursary currently available to students.
Currently, students from households earning less than £25,000 per annum are eligible for a bursary of £3,400 per year, so the new recommended bursary entitles students to less than half this amount.
Mansigani was concerned over the negative impact that raising fees would have on Cambridge access schemes.
“Government cuts to Aimhigher and other schemes could also have a devastating effect on the University’s widening participation work”, he said. “It is therefore extremely important that the University devotes sufficient resources to Access to maintain and expand all our current work, across CUSU, the Colleges and the University.”
Mansigani’s position is reflected by plans outlined in the PRC Working Group report, which suggest that “The University should continue to contribute £1m per annum in support of its widening participation activities”, while also recommending that the university raises its target for state sector admissions “from the current figure of 58% into a range of between 61% and 63%”.
Not all students at Cambridge agree with their union president’s harsh appraisal of the future of access at the university.
Magnus Maharg, a first year at Cambridge, said: “Under the circumstances Cambridge had little choice other than to charge full fees if they are to keep up with international competition. The considerable array of exempting and supporting measures suggests the university is sticking steadfast by its commitment to equal access, which some students would do well to acknowledge.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told BBC News that it was “not up to them [Oxford and Cambridge]” to decide what fees to charge.
“They can say what they like. They can’t charge £9,000 unless they’re given permission to do so”, he said. “And they’re only going to be given permission to do so if they can prove that they can dramatically increase the number of people from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds.”