English universities will need to charge students nearly £7,000 a year in fees just to break even, research suggests.
On average, institutions will have to raise fees to £6,863 to plug the gap left by the Government’s plans for swingeing funding cuts, according to an analysis by the University and College Union (UCU).
The union said the figures “make a mockery” of ministers’ claims that universities will only charge more than £6,000 in “exceptional circumstances.”
Under the Government’s controversial tuition fee proposals, universities will be able to charge £6,000 per year in fees, and up to £9,000 in “exceptional circumstances”. This is treble the current fee cap.
At the same time, universities are facing cuts of up to 80% from teaching budgets, and it is expected that funding for subjects such as humanities will be lost entirely. Only some funding for “priority” areas, such as science and maths-based subjects would remain.
The UCU analysis looked at how many students are taught with public teaching budget funding in subjects that would, in general, not be protected under the cuts. It found that some institutions will lose all of their funding and need to charge as much as £7,700 a year to maintain their current funding.
Most universities are likely to charge more than the minimum level needed just to break even, UCU said.
Universities minister David Willetts said: “Increasing social mobility, extending fair access to higher education and the professions and attracting a higher proportion of students from under-represented groups, particularly those most able but least likely to apply, are priority issues for the coalition Government.
“Universities will decide what to charge for tuition, within the limits agreed by Parliament. Those wanting to charge more than £6,000 will face much tougher requirements to actively recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds, backed up by strong sanctions to ensure we continue to advance social mobility.
“Costs in the sector do need to be held down. In common with all publicly funded bodies, universities have been asked to operate more efficiently.”