Aberystwyth University backs £9,000 tuition fees

Aberystwyth University becomes the first in Wales to propose charging the maximum tuition fee of �9,000 a year.

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Aberystwyth University has voted in favour of becoming the first in Wales to charge tuition fees of £9,000 per year.

The plans were discussed at a meeting on Monday and are subject to approval by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Students from Wales will not be affected, but those in the rest of the UK would pay more from September 2012.

Welsh universities have been asked for fee plans by the end of the month.

Aberystwyth University has a high proportion of students from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland who could be affected by the hike in fees, which currently stand at £3,290.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), there were 3,505 undergraduates from other parts of the UK living in Aberystwyth in 2009/10.

Analysis

By Ciaran Jenkins, BBC Wales education correspondent

Aberystwyth may well become the first to propose £9,000 fees but it's likely to be joined by other universities before long.

Cardiff forms part of the elite Russell Group of universities, whose English members have all already announced their intention to charge the maximum level, and Bangor and Swansea are also expected to follow suit.

Universities' plans for increasing fees must be approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, who will expect to see firm commitments on widening access and improving the student experience

The assembly government will watch developments closely as it has promised to fund the difference in tuition fees for Welsh students from September 2012.

Based on its own calculations, the cost of providing these subsidies could be as much as £2.3bn over the next nine years.

The 25,000 or so students from elsewhere in the UK who study in Welsh universities each year will have no choice but to pay the increased fees.

The big unanswered question is whether they will still consider studying in Wales to be attractive when fees go up.

There were 675 from countries in the European Union (EU), and 350 students from nations outside the EU. The number of students from Wales numbered 2,550.

"The 25,000 or so students from elsewhere in the UK who study in Welsh universities each year will have no choice but to pay the increased fees.

"The big unanswered question is whether they will still consider studying in Wales to be attractive when fees go up."

The Welsh Assembly Government confirmed that the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales would have to scrutinise plans by Welsh universities to increase tuition fees before they could be approved.

Aberystwyth Guild of Students voiced its disappointment, but president Jon Antonazzi said: "However, the decision has not come as a surprise after the market in England has dictated the level [of fees] .... this university has chosen.

"We are pleased to see that commitments on bursaries and widening access are not tokenistic and will hopefully ensure that those from lower income backgrounds can still aspire and be retained in university and at the same time the university will embark on schemes to improve facilities and teaching provisions across campus.

"We have lobbied, protested and fought for students at every level, we have secured deals on widening access, transparent processes and on facilities - however, we are extremely disappointed that Aberystwyth University has taken this decision."

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