11 April 2011

The University of Sheffield announces UK and other EU undergraduate fee level from 2012

Firth Court

Over recent weeks, a growing number of UK universities have announced proposed levels of undergraduate tuition fees for UK and other EU students from 2012. Talking to alumni in recent months, I am well aware that many alumni have a genuine interest in what fee levels the University is proposing, particularly given the withdrawal of a significant proportion of public funding for undergraduate teaching. I therefore wanted to inform you, as one of our alumni, that the University of Sheffield has today announced that it will be charging £9,000 tuition fees for all full time UK/EU undergraduate students as standard, with increased levels of financial support available to students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Over a number of months, the University has seriously considered its next steps not only in relation to price, but also in the light of the student experience, our academic values and quality, and the impact of any decisions on the students who come to the University of Sheffield. These discussions have drawn on input from across our faculties, but also included students and research with potential students and schools.

Following a lengthy process of analysis and considerable debate, the University of Sheffield Council propose a £9,000 fee as the level best able to replace cuts in government funding while ensuring we are able to deliver a consistently excellent education to students from all backgrounds. Given the vital importance of widening participation, the University will also seek approval from the Office for Fair Access for our Access Agreement (OFFA) which would significantly expand our financial aid, outreach and retention activities to £10 million in 2012. The proposed fee level is subject to approval by OFFA of this Access Agreement.

Plans to support broad access for students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds aimed to provide a comprehensive package of financial support and outreach activities to help them benefit from study at the University of Sheffield, with ongoing monitoring to ensure that resources devoted to this are having the maximum impact. Specifically:

• More than one third of all our UK undergraduate students – over 6,000 each year – will be eligible for some form of financial aid

• Bursaries will be available to all students with household income up to £42,000 and will be available as either cash or accommodation discount

• Spending on outreach and retention programmes will be doubled to £4 million each year

• Mature students from low income backgrounds will be further supported through fee reductions for our Foundation Programme in Combined Studies

• Students from low-participation backgrounds will receive more than £13,000 of aid from the University over the course of a three year degree

• Eligible students will also be able to experience University with a first year 100 per cent fee waiver

• In all £12 million will be spent on widening participation by 2015 (compared to £6.7 million currently)

While the transfer of costs for higher education from public funds to graduates is deeply regrettable to many of us, one thing is clear. We now face a real challenge not of our choosing, but one which we owe it to future students to accept. At a time when many sectors of society are feeling the impact of cuts and young people are increasingly concerned about employability and debt, the University must demonstrate the long term value of investing in the kind of education we offer here in Sheffield. In the face of real concerns for the future, we must effectively deliver and communicate the positive worth of a degree.

As alumni you play a crucial role as ambassadors for the University by championing an education which is worthy of that investment. Be assured, we will not turn away from our founding vision of a University of Sheffield ‘for the people’, but will hold a broad vision which will apply resources intelligently to nurture talent regardless of background. Through our outlined Access Agreement and the generous support our alumni continue to give to the Alumni Fund, our support for students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds will not diminish.

We will put our commitment to an excellent university for all, not because we have been forced to do so, but because these are our values regardless of circumstances. They are true of a University which unites the highest academic quality and impact on the world around us with a community which is down-to-earth and inclusive – a vision which I trust will hold for future students, despite today’s difficult decisions.

Professor Keith Burnett