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The fees wheeze: Tuition fees

Hate 'em or loathe 'em, tuition fees are a reality. But who pays what and how?

Tuition fees are the yearly cost of a higher education course charged by the university. The university shouldn’t demand any other fees for admission, registration, graduation and so on, although don’t expect the fees to include your own photocopying say, library fines or cover expenses for a swish new Mac.

At the moment, the Government pays the biggest chunk of any student’s tuition costs. These run into many thousands of quid per student per year and, even since the introduction of tuition fees, students only pay a small slice of the tuition fees-filled pie.

However, portion sizes just got bigger. From 2006, universities were allowed to charge the highest amount ever – up to £3,000 a year. That has now gone up even further and current fees for 2009/10 are £3,225.

After that, what happens is anyone’s guess, and they're as different as a Willy Wonka-inspired golden-ticket system for the Charlie Buckets of this world, and a universal shrugging off of the tweed in favour of sharp suits to lure in students big business style.

Some universities, particularly the ‘elite’ group like Oxford and Cambridge, have made murmurs of their desire to charge much bigger fees. It’s possible that British universities will eventually be able to charge monster, US-style fees of, say, £15,000 a year, but there’s no evidence – yet – that this will become a reality on this side of the pond.

Anyone who gets in before 2010 will be safe(ish), anyway. If you're considering putting off university life for a couple of years of beach bumdom though, you might want to postpone the gap year if it means starting uni after 2010.

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