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Free education? What's that?

Higher education doesn’t come cheap and somebody has to foot the bill to run the universities, pay the lecturers, put books and computers in the library and so on.

Who should cough up the dosh, however, is a controversial matter.

Push has no opinion (or not one that doesn’t involve using a lot of punctuation keys on the keyboard) - we’re only here to tell it like it is.

Once upon a time, students in Britain didn’t have to pay a penny towards their higher ed. years, in the same way that pupils don’t have to pay for the privilege of going to state schools. That all changed a few years ago and unless you’re a dab hand with a time machine and can go back a decade or two, chances are you’re going to have to cough up a bit towards your tuition costs. Sorry.

Before 2006, students were charged top-up fees, capped at just under £1,200 a year, regardless of which university they went to or which course they studied. These old rules still apply to people who started university before 2006, or who slipped under the old system net (probably by taking a gap year). If that means you, surf on down to www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport for a reminder of the niggly details about the old fee regime.

For everyone else, however, the fee system got an almighty shake-up in 2006. Very, very briefly: the new fee landscape for anyone starting university now looks something like this:

  • Universities in England and Northern Ireland and Wales are allowed to charge new students up to £3,145 a year (Scottish universities are different).
  • They can set their own fees within this limit, meaning that some courses and some universities might be cheaper than others.
  • It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) your parents earn. Everyone on the course will be charged the same.
  • Last but not least, the good news: no one will have to pay the fees while they’re at university.
More in this section:

Paying the fees
OK, so how much will I have to pay?
Should I just go for the cheapest option?
Students from different parts of the UK and beyond

Last updated on: 13 August 2008

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