Tuesday, 8 February 2011

So now the fee setting begins

Entirely unsurprising news is now just beginning to filter out about the level of fees that England's universities will charge from the start of the academic year 2012-2013. Cambridge University's internal debate has predictably focused on setting the maximum possible fee level (as indeed they probably would have done at say £12,000, or indeed even £15,000 or £17,000 for some subjects). 'International excellence' and the ability to compete in an 'international market' are as ever given as reasons - despite the extremely thin nature of global moves on the parts of either prospective students or staff.

Still, this was all entirely predictable - and was forecast here, as well as across the sector, when the Government finally came up with its nasty dog's dinner of a package late last year.

So is Cambridge's (entirely warranted) assumption

We await this week's news of what access conditions universities will have to meet if they are to charge more than the minimum £6,000 - as almost all will. Cambridge will have been in the loop on this to some extent, so the fees remission of £3,000 and the maintenance bursary of £1,625, and a bit of progress on state school entry, shouldn't be far off the mark that's asked for. Even if you fall short, you will probably only face fines - or at most a 'very nasty letter', Team America, World Police-style.

Here's something else to chew on while you're thinking about that: yet another hole in the plan will be the Treasury subsidy to students from poorer EU countries, who will come to the UK to study but may then earn not much (in UK terms) back in their home countries. That'll leave the taxpayer picking up the bill yet again, as the avings from all this continue to dry up.

None of this is very edifying. It's another policy car-crash in slow motion. But it was so obvious from the start that making this a news item seems a bit surprising.

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