University fee increases pushed through

By Sean Coughlan
Education correspondent


Almost all universities in England will be able to introduce annual increases to tuition fees until 2020, in a deal pushing legislation through Parliament before the general election.

The higher education legislation had been intended to make higher fees dependent on improved teaching.

But this will now not be implemented until 2020-21 - and until then universities can make inflation-linked increases without any link to quality.

Fees will increase to £9,250 this year.

Student loans to pay for the higher fees are already going to be subject to a sharp increase in interest rates - rising from 4.6% to 6.1% from the autumn.

Last-minute deal

The Higher Education and Research Bill had faced a large number of amendments in the House of Lords, but a series of compromises has seen the legislation passed by Parliament before shutting down for the election.

The legislation had been intended to allow universities to increase fees as long as they could show they were offering high quality teaching.

A framework for measuring teaching quality is to be introduced, but the link with fees will not come into force for another three years.

Until that time, any university that is part of the plans to measure teaching quality - which is almost all universities - will be able to put up fees each year in line with inflation.

An independent review of this "teaching excellence framework" will begin in 2018 - with the aim of annual increases becoming dependent on teaching quality from 2020-21.

Universities had campaigned for overseas students not to be included in migration targets.

Although this proposal has been rejected, universities believe that a longer-term deal could still be achieved, saying there is an agreement to look again at the data on overseas students and migration.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, said she was encouraged by proposals for a "refreshed international engagement strategy".

Universities anticipate that the status of overseas students could be reconsidered as part of wider reviews of migration during the Brexit negotiations.

The university sector also supported compromises which will set a higher bar for new institutions to gain powers to award degrees and to be given a university title.

Dame Julia said the legislation offered "stability during a time of uncertainty".

"We agreed there was a need for new legislation, but we had concerns about the original draft bill.

"Thanks to MPs and peers, and the willingness of ministers and officials to engage and listen, the final bill has been significantly improved."

More on this story