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Freezing tuition fees ‘will put pressure on funding for teaching’

Nottingham University is a member of the Russell Group (Mike Egerton/PA)
Nottingham University is a member of the Russell Group (Mike Egerton/PA)

A group of universities has warned that a freeze in tuition fees will increase the pressure on funding for teaching.

The Russell Group, which represents 24 UK universities, has estimated that due to rising student demand and increasing costs alongside frozen tuition fees up to 2024/25, the average deficit per UK undergraduate taught will more than double from £1,750 in 2021/22 to around £4,000 in 2024/25, with deficits across all subjects.

It is calling for the Government to work with the sector to develop a new funding formula from 2024/2025.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said: “We understand the challenges Government faces in balancing the public finances so welcome recent investment in high-cost subjects and capital funding.

“However, with tuition fees frozen for another two years, and costs and student demand rising, the pressure on funding for teaching will grow.

“Universities will continue to work hard and find ways of reducing that pressure so they can provide the best possible student experience, but if unaddressed over the long term, this will inevitably affect the range and quality of courses that can be offered to students at a time when we need a breadth of high-level skills to drive a sustainable recovery.

“There is an opportunity over the next two years for the sector and Government to come together and look at a new funding formula that will protect that pipeline of skills and high-quality education for the benefit of students and the wider UK economy and society.”

The group added that a previous announcement of a £300 million investment over three years into the strategic priorities grant (SPG) as well as the maintenance of the capital budget was welcomed by the sector, but warned that per-student funding will decline “significantly” by 2024-25 unless action is taken.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This Government is investing nearly £900 million over the next three years to support high-quality teaching and world-class facilities in our universities, focusing on Stem, medicine, and degree apprenticeships that deliver real benefits for students and the economy.

“We are taking forward the biggest reforms to post-18 education in a decade, including the introduction of the lifelong loan entitlement which, from 2025, learners will be able to use on more flexible, modular higher education courses so they can train, upskill or retrain over their lifetime. We want to see universities using this as an opportunity to adapt and overhaul the kind of provision that they offer to support these ambitions.”