Deal struck to increase uni charges

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DEALS to admit more students from poorer families have been struck by both Sheffield universities – clearing the way for higher fees to be charged from September next year.

Sheffield will charge £9,000 a year and Hallam £8,500, now their plans to support undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds have been approved by Government watchdog OFFA, the Office of Fair Access.

Sheffield has agreed to increase its spending from £6.7 million a year to £11.6 million by 2016, while Hallam will invest an extra £20 million over three years.

A target of 392 disadvantaged students to be admitted each year by 2017 has been set by Sheffield, up from 330 at the moment.

As a result Sheffield will spend almost 30 per cent of its extra income on measures to attract, retain and support poorer students. A spokesman said 40 per cent of all UK undergraduates would receive some form of subsidy each year.

“The university is and will remain committed to widening participation and will continue to strive to ensure cost is not a barrier to students,” he said.

The deal with OFFA will see 200 students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds being given £9,000 scholarships for the first year of their studies.

All students from homes with incomes of less than £42,000 will be eligible for a grant ranging from £500 to £1,400 per year.

Hallam meanwhile is planning to spend £9 million a year on scholarships and grants by 2015.

Deputy vice-chancellor Cliff Allan said: “We are pleased that our agreement has been approved by OFFA and we can now put our detailed proposals into action.”

The agreements will be reviewed each year, with universities that fail to meet their agreed targets on recruitment and retention facing fines or losing the right to charge more than £6,000.

But critics said not one university had been ordered by OFFA to lower its fees, and some were admitting only a handful of poorer students.

Sally Hunt of the University and College Union said: “This rubber-stamping of higher fees will entrench our position as the most expensive place to study for a private degree in the world.”