tuition fees
Image: Flickr / Michael Fleshman

New law allows universities to raise tuition fees annually

A new law has been passed through government this week, allowing almost all universities in England to raise tuition fees annually.

The legislation, which comes into place in advance of the general election, will allow universities to increase tuition fees year upon year.

According to an article published by The Independent, ministers have claimed that the new legislation is part of an effort to improve quality of teaching in Higher Education, suggesting that the law will offer “greater value for money for new students”.

However, the Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF), the purpose of which is to monitor quality of academic teaching to allow institutions to increase their fees accordingly, will not be implemented until 2020.

Meanwhile, universities can choose to make inflation-linked increases in fees as and when they wish.

The Higher Education and Research Bill has taken a long time to pass through parliament, following a whole series of amendments in the House of Lords. Several compromises were made this week in a rush to pass the legislation before the close of parliament.

Lady Sue Garden, Liberal Democrat lead for Higher Education, said to The Independent: “We were intent on removing the link between the flawed TEF metrics and the ability to raise fees. We achieved this, along with a detailed review of the TEF.”

She added: “The unprecedented number of amendments indicates just how ill-conceived parts of this Bill were. That the government accepted so many of them is testimony to the persistence of peers, and to having Ministers who listened.”

In addition to fee-changes, the legislation also involves the creation of a new Office for Students, acting as a regulator for Higher Education across England.

The parliament had debated the Bill earlier in the year, where criticism of the changes was expressed. These criticisms included claims that the Bill would allow for universities to become “marketised”, which would in turn devaluate the reputation of British Higher Education.

Ministers, influential industry leaders and universities had also campaigned for students not to be included in the net migration targets outlined in the Bill, but the amendment was rejected. Despite this, universities are hopeful that longer-term deals might still be achieved, involving overseas students and migration.

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