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Written Statement - Higher Education Fee Plans

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

In order to charge fees above the basic amount of £4,000 institutions must have approved fee plans in place.  The fee plan must set out the institution’s objectives with regard to the promotion of equality of opportunity and the promotion of higher education. With a fee plan in place, approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), fees can be charged up to the amount stated in the fee plan for that course, subject to the prescribed limit of £9,000. Institutions which do not have a plan agreed by 1 October 2011 will only be permitted to charge tuition fees not exceeding £4,000 in academic year 2012/13.

The Welsh Government issued guidance to HEFCW in March 2011 to which the Council is required to have regard in the performance of its functions of approving and enforcing fee plans.  The guidance made clear the Welsh Government’s expectation that institutions must agree robust and challenging targets for the promotion of equality of access to higher education.

In June HEFCW notified all institutions that none of their fee plans met the necessary requirements, and institutions were asked to carry out further work to ensure that the requirements were met.  Institutions sought advice from HEFCW throughout June to ensure that their plans were robust and that their proposals to promote equality of opportunity and promote higher education were sufficiently ambitious and re-submitted their revised fee plans for consideration.

Today HEFCW has notified institutions of the outcome of the Council’s consideration of their re-submitted fee plans. The majority of institutions will have approved plans in place for the 2012/13 academic year.  Institutions’ plans specify the additional investment they will make to promote equality of opportunity, including the arrangements for supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This has been a robust process. The Welsh Government expects institutions to provide value for money, support access to higher education from under-represented groups and to deliver an excellent student experience.

If an institution fails to comply with the provisions of an approved fee plan then HEFCW may notify the institution that on the expiry of the existing plan that it will refuse to approve a new plan for a period of one year. It is therefore in institutions’ own interest to ensure compliance with the provisions set out in their fee plans and I expect HEFCW to continue to monitor institutions’ performance to ensure that the commitments made are delivered in line with the guidance we issued.