UUK report: Tuition fee income has benefited students and universities

A report published today by Universities UK highlights how the new income from variable tuition fees has helped stabilise the financial position of universities in England.

Today's report - 'Making it count: how universities are using income from variable fees' - provides an insight into how this income has been used by English universities. Since their introduction in 2006, variable tuition fees have brought £1.3 billion of new income into the higher education sector.

The evidence from today's report will form one of the major strands of Universities UK's evidence to the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding & Student Finance. Professor Steve Smith, as President of Universities UK, will be giving evidence this afternoon as part of the review's first public hearings.

The report is based on a survey of 61 Universities UK members in England (62%) and includes a wide range of case study examples of how universities have benefitted from this additional income.

Key points include:

  • 25% of fee income, or £335 million, was spent on bursaries and outreach over this two-year period
  • according to the Office for Fair Access, in 2007/08, 205,000 students from lower income and other under-represented groups received a bursary or scholarship
  • the median staff: student ratio has improved from 17.6 in 2004/05 to 16.8 in 2007/08
  • there has been significant investment in buildings and infrastructure. 57% of higher education institutions have improved the quality of their estates (excluding accommodation) in this period

Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said: "The additional investment from fees has made a real difference to the financial sustainability of universities, allowing them to invest for the long term, reverse backlogs in maintenance, and go a significant way towards meeting rising student expectations.

"The report highlights what students in England have begun to get in return for their money up to this point. It is an encouraging picture - better facilities, more teaching staff, better support, advice and space for learning and socialising. These benefits are now being felt by current students and staff and as well as by universities' wider communities and the economy.

"This progress has been possible because universities have benefited from the income from variable tuition fees income alongside sustained public investment. The announcement in December 2009 of funding cuts totalling about £1 billion by 2013 seriously threatens this progress. The levels of investment described by this report will not be sustained without additional funding from public or private sources.

"On behalf of Universities UK, I will be highlighting this evidence at today's public hearing of Lord Browne's Review."


1. Journalists interested in receiving an electronic copy of the report should contact the Universities UK press office on 020 7419 5407 or email pressunit@universitiesuk.ac.uk The report will be available on the Universities UK website later today: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/

2. Professor Smith will appear this afternoon [15:15] at the Independent Review's first public hearing taking place today in Manchester: The line-up will include: Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, Secretary of State for Education and Skills 2002-04; Wes Streeting, President, National Union of Students; Professor Steve Smith, President, Universities UK; and Professor Lorraine Dearden, Programme Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies. For further information, visit: www.independent.gov.uk/HEreview

3. Today's report - 'Making it count: how universities are using income from variable fees' - is based on national data and responses from 62% of English universities to a survey conducted by Universities UK in October 2009.

4. For the two years for which figures are available, variable tuition fees have brought £1.3 billion new income into the higher education sector: made up of £451million in 2006/07 and £878 million in 2007/08. This is gross income of which 25% was spent on institutional bursaries and outreach.

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