New tuition fees system 'mystifying parents'

Fees protest Fees protests in London last year ended in violence several times

Half of parents feel they have not received enough information about the new university tuition fees system, research suggests.

And a third of the 630 parents of 13-21-year-olds quizzed for Universities UK said they had little or no understanding of the new system.

UUK president Sir Professor Steve Smith said the need for clear and accessible information was "paramount".

The government has launched a public information campaign on the issue.

It has allowed universities in England from 2012 to treble their yearly tuition fees to £9,000. These will be paid, as now, by the government on behalf of students in the form of student loans.

Graduates then pay back the costs of these directly from their pay once they begin earning more than £21,000.

Interest rates will be up to 3% plus inflation, depending on earnings, for graduates who started university in 2012, although they could potentially rise to market rates in later years.

'Fairer'

The research, carried out online by YouGov for the university umbrella group, also suggested a third of parents were now more likely to be involved with their child's university choice.

This was mainly in response to the political debate and coverage in the media, it suggested.

But more than half these parents think universities should explain how they will spend the new fee income.

Some 56% think universities should spell out how a degree can improve a student's career prospects after they finish their studies.

Sir Steve said university staff and managers had concerns over the way information about the new fees and funding package in England has been communicated.

"As vice-chancellors we are aware that it is more important than ever that our universities go out and tell a positive story of what we can offer prospective students," he added.

Financial support

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "We must ensure that prospective students are not put off applying to university because they do not understand the new system.

"Going to university depends on ability - not the ability to pay."

He insisted the new system was fairer and more affordable for the nation than the present system.

And he underlined that no student would be asked to pay upfront costs, and said there would be more financial support for poorer students.

Those who go on to earn the highest incomes would pay the most after graduating, he added.

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