Essex: University of Essex plans �9,000-a-year tution fees

ESSEX university chiefs have defended controversial plans to hike tuition fees to the maximum �9,000-a-year.

The University of Essex is one of a handful of insitutions nationally to announce proposals to charge the highest permitted figure.

Vice chancellor Colin Riordan said the move was necessary because of increased volatility over the university’s funding.

He said the university’s financing from central Government had been slashed by �17.8m, which meant they had to hike fees from �3,290 currently to �9,000 from 2012.

Kishor Krishnamoorthi, president of the students’ union, said he could not rule out the move was motivated by a desire to promote the university’s reputation, rather than concerns over finance.

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Professor Riordan, responding to the suggestion, said: “Reputation is clearly key to us but the fact is we need to supply the best possible facilities and make the investments for the future or we know our reputation will suffer anyway,

Mr Krishnamoorthi said the union opposoed the fees hike but was working with the university to ensure youngsters from less priviledged backgrounds were not priced out of degrees.

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Prof Riordan said: “Essex has a long tradition of providing access to a diverse community of students, including those from less privileged backgrounds and social groups, and our priority will be to continue to do so.

“We will be offering bursaries and academic scholarships to ensure those with the ability to succeed will be able to study here, regardless of their financial circumstances.”

But he admitted he was unsure about what impact the fees hike would have on student numbers.

“Fees increased in 2004 and numbers kept on rising,” he said. “There’s bound to be an impact [this time], it’s going to affect things.

“But we’re not relying on increasing numbers, we’re planning for them to stay at a steady state or decline slightly.

“Frankly nobody knows what’s going to happen, no-one has done it this way before, but the fees are set for only a year.”

The university has already invested �200m in upgrading its facilities, including new teaching and student centres and a library extension at its Colchester campus.

Proposals to hike the university’s tuition fees for new entrants in 2012 was approved by its governing body on Monday. They will now go before the Office for Fair Access, which is expected to make a decision on whether to approve the fees hike in July.

Surrey University, Oxford, Imperial College, Durham and Exeter are among other universities to announce plans to increase their fees to �9,000.

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