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Welsh universities to lower tuition fees

Five Welsh universities are planning to lower tuition fees to £7,500 or less following changes to student number allocations made by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

The plans were revealed in a HEFCW circular letter sent to institutions on 5 April.

It shows that the University of Glamorgan; Cardiff Metropolitan University; the University of Wales, Newport; the University of Wales, Trinity St David; and Swansea Metropolitan University are planning to cut fees. As a result, they will be awarded more student places from HEFCW.

HEFCW first announced its take on the ‘core and margin’ system for student number allocations in January. From September 2013, 50 per cent of undergraduate places—around 12,000 places will be top-sliced from across institutions. About half of these will be reallocated to institutions that have dropped their fees below £7,500 while the other half will go to institutions that successfully meet the Welsh government’s requirements on spinout companies, overseas recruitment, research income and total income. However, the top-sliced places exclude priority subjects like science, engineering, technology, maths, computing and modern foreign languages.

The circular shows that the University of Glamorgan could gain 811 student places in 2013-14. Swansea Metropolitan could see an increase of 360 places and Cardiff Metropolitan an increase of 360 places. At the other end of the scale, Aberystwyth University, which intends to charge £9,000 in fees, could lose over 500 places. Similarly, Swansea and Bangor—also set to charge maximum fees—risk losing 274 and 201 places each.

HEFCW says that some of the institutions that have agreed to lower their fees want to “reserve the right to reverse their decision”.

“To protect other institutions from the consequences of any such change of mind, we wish to be clear that if any institution that has undertaken to lower its average fee to £7,500 or less were to reverse this decision, any numbers allocated to them through this strategic reallocation process would be taken back and reallocated elsewhere in the sector,” reads the council’s letter.

Welsh universities will be able to charge students up to £9,000 in tuition fees from September 2012. However, Welsh students will not have to pay the full cost since the Welsh government will cover the fee increases through support grants.