Report looks at universities’ response to higher fees

Posted by pt91 at Sep 10, 2013 10:20 AM |
Universities UK conference at University of Leicester sees the launch of new report

Issued by Universities UK on 10 September 2013

As university heads gather for their annual conference – held this year at the University of Leicester (10–12 September) – a report published today [Tuesday] shows how tuition fees are changing universities and the ways they are investing for the future.

The report looks at the shift that occurred in 2012, from direct government funding of English universities to fees backed by public loans, when funding was cut and the fee cap increased to £9,000. Based on case studies from a range of universities, the report looks at how different institutions are responding to the changing student expectations in the light of these higher fees.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “Since the introduction of tuition fees, people have quite rightly been asking questions about how universities are spending the income. Our report aims to answer these questions and to give students, potential students and parents an overview of how tuition fees are making a real difference in universities.

“While this report is only a snap shot, it gives examples from universities all over England, and shows how they are investing in improvements in teaching, facilities, support services, careers support and financial support. These investments are making a substantial and positive difference for students. Meanwhile, the application rate for low income students is higher than ever, and student satisfaction as measured by the National Student survey is at a record high.

“It is worth pointing out that fees have largely replaced the income universities used to receive from the public purse. Fees have meant that institutions can continue to provide students with the world-class education they expect from universities, and continue to improve on what they can offer to students.”

Where student fees go outlines the areas where tuition fees are making a difference

Outreach and financial support

Since the introduction of variable fees universities have made substantial increases in their spending on widening access so students from low-income backgrounds are not put off going to university. Examples in the report show how universities are adapting the financial support they offer in the light of student feedback, for example by providing cash bursaries, accommodation discounts and reducing associated course costs.

Teaching and learning

Universities are adapting to students’ increased expectations. In many cases universities have anticipated the introduction of fees, borrowing against future income, so that students are already benefitting from better teaching and improved facilities. The report demonstrates how many universities are improving teaching space, investing in libraries and IT infrastructure, extending opening hours and creating new social learning spaces in response to feedback. Examples in the report show how universities are involving students in the decision making processes, such as in redesigning a library or improving assessment and feedback.

Campus life

Investment in university estates has been a visible outcome of higher tuition fees. Between 2010 and 2011 nearly 80% of institutions reported they had maintained or increased the quality of their non-residential estate.  Universities have also created joined-up systems offering students one point of contact for all support services


Investment in employability was one of the strongest themes emerging from responses we received from universities. Examples include major initiatives to increase the uptake and support of placements with employers to improve graduates’ job prospects, and dedicated support for particular groups such as students in creative arts subjects to help them start their own businesses.

Strategic choices

While tuition fees have given universities opportunities to transform the learning environment for their students, the new system also brings with it volatility and risk. Universities are reporting the need to build financial stability in order to withstand the volatility arising from the transition between funding models.

-       ENDS


  1. Where student fees go is launched on Tuesday 10 September 2013 at Universities UK members’ annual conference, held this year at The University of Leicester. The report is accompanied by a video, outlining the key elements of the report and featuring short interviews from students, which can be viewed on our website on Tuesday 10 September 2013. Both report and video will be available to download from our website on Tuesday.
  2. Universities UK’s annual members’ meeting attracts over 100 vice-chancellors and senior representatives from across the higher education sector. Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 133 members and offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh, it promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally. Visit:
  3. Examples of case studies included in Where student fees go:

Teaching and learning

University of Liverpool – The opening of the Central Teaching Laboratories [CLT] has transformed the teaching of physics, chemistry, environmental sciences and archaeology. Now the disciplines are under one roof, students are seeing the benefits of learning from related scientific subject areas. CTL is also used to showcase the university to schools and for alumni events.

Campus life

De Montfort University has pioneered a new approach to funding by securing a £90 million bond that will augment fee income to transform its city centre site, providing teaching rooms, improving the students’ union and developing a new complex housing the Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities.


The University of Chichester has developed GraduateOn, a graduate internship programme which aims to ensure that every student from every discipline can apply for a matched internship at the end of their degree.

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