How Tuition Fees Are Calculated and Paid to Universities

Most universities expect a payment of tuition fees from students or their sponsors. The amount of the tuition fee is dependent on:

  • the level of the course (undergraduate or postgraduate)
  • the place where the student normally lives (UK - home, European Union member state or other overseas country)
  • the subject being studied
  • the way in which the student attends the university (part-time or full-time)

Universities are restricted in what they can charge as a tuition fee for some types of student. For other types of student the universities have freedom to set their fees at whatever level they deem to be appropriate.

More detail is available about the typical arrangements for setting the level of fees for:

Home and EU Undergraduate Students

This section describes the financial arrangements for students commencing study from September 2012. For Home and EU Undergraduate students whose studies at the University commenced before this date the arrangements are similar, but the maximum that the University can charge is significantly lower and there is no maximum fee for part-time students.

For full-time home and EU undergraduate students universities are permitted to charge whatever fee they deem to be appropriate up to a maximum amount approved by the Government. For the academic year commencing in September 2012 the maximum fee is £9,000 (£6,750 for part-time study). Within this maximum universities are able to vary the fees charged for different courses if they wish to do so. Fees for home and EU full-time undergraduates are known as ‘regulated’ tuition fees.

In order to be able to charge full-time fees above £6,000 (£4,000 for part-time study), the institution has to have an agreement in place with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). This sets out how the institution will safeguard fair access to higher education, particularly from low income groups.

Home and EU undergraduate students are able to defer payment of all or part of their tuition fees by taking out a tuition fee loan (the level of loan available depends on family income). The Student Loans Company (SLC) provides these. The university receives the equivalent of the fee from the SLC whilst the student is studying. The student starts to make re-payments to the SLC once they have graduated and their annual income exceeds a specific threshold set by the Government. Part-time students are eligible to take out a fee loan from the SLC if they are expected to complete a minimum of 25% of the full-time course load per year (30 credits or more).

Home and EU Postgraduate Students

Universities are generally able to set their own level of tuition fees for postgraduate students (Home, EU and overseas, full-time or part-time). This means that the fee charged can vary by subject and even by course. Factors which affect the level of the fee set are the demand for courses, the level of funding available to potential students, the fees set by competitor institutions and the cost of running the course.

Overseas Students

Tuition fees for overseas students (undergraduate or postgraduate) can be set by the institution at whatever level it deems appropriate.

Island Students

Students from the British Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man pay tuition fees under an agreement with the island authorities and Universities UK (the umbrella body for Vice Chancellors). The tuition fee varies according to the subject being studied.

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