As of the 2017/2018 academic the University of Sheffield will be increasing the costs of tuition fees from the previously capped £9000 limit to £9250 under the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).
As part of the Conservative government’s drive to reduce public funding for High-er Education, universities who meet the required standards of education, as defined by the TEF, will be allowed to increase tuition fees in line with inflation starting next year. In a statement on January 16 2017, the Vice-Chancellor of the university Professor Sir Keith Burnet said: “I am not in a position to ignore the need to increase fees in line with inflation, a decision which would see resources for teaching continually eroded.”
The TEF was started in September 2016 in an effort to ensure all students receive an excellent standard of teaching, build a culture where teaching has equal status with research, and recognise institutions that do their most to welcome students from a range of backgrounds. In the 2016/17 ac-ademic year, the TEF launched their first annual Quality Assurance Agency Review to ensure High-er Education institutions meet the academic expectations necessary to raise their tuition fees.
However, the TEF has not gone without meeting resistance from both the University and our Stu-dent Officers. Despite agreeing to increase fees, in the same statement Professor Sir Keith Burnet said: “I will continue to express [the university’s] shared view that the TEF metrics as proposed do not measure teaching excellence.”
In addition, the Student Officers have lead an ongoing campaign, ‘Shef better than TEF’, arguing against the proposed increase to tuition fees. They have expressed concerns regarding the pro-posed license of universities to increase fees in line with inflation indefinitely, with an August 2016 article by Education Officer Ali Day stating: “fee increases are accumulative, meaning that by 2020, students are likely to pay around £10,000 a year to attend university.”
In reaction to the announcement that the university would be adhering to the TEF policy of increas-ing fees, Ali Day said:
“Despite the overwhelming support students, staff and other interested parties have shown for the ‘Shef Better Than TEF’ campaign, unfortunately, the University has taken the decision to raise tui-tion fees for new students. Whilst this is a significant knock back for the campaign I am now more determined than ever to fight back against the onslaught of attacks on Higher Education and the ev-er increasing pressure put on students. I am currently organising a boycott of the National Student Survey which will prevent the Government from getting the data it needs to implement the TEF. I am confident we will be successful given that we previously received over 3000 signatures for an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor asking him to opt out of the TEF.”
While current students have little to fear of increases to their own tuition fees, it remains to be seen how they will react to the news that their university is increasing fees for new students even more than the unpopular £9000 figure they have had to pay since 2012.