An end to stealth fees

Last year NUS campaigned long and hard to get top-up fees for undergraduates ruled out by the Government. It eventually succeeded. At postgraduate level, however, there is very little to prevent institutions raising tuition fees to whichever level they see fit. The only influence comes from the maximum contribution the Research Councils will make towards tuition fees, which is ineffective for subjects with little or no Research Council support. Many institutions have liberally increased postgraduate tuition fees as high as demand will allow, which can often be more than 2,000 above the standard annual fee. Overseas students fees have grown particularly harshly.

NPC believes that the quality of postgraduate education should not be dependent on the ability to meet costs of inflated tuition fees. We recognise there are some instances where a course will only be economically viable if a premium fee is charged, and others where a premium fee is levied principally to supply added value to the students on the course (such as happens with the MBA, for example). The Government should introduce legislation requiring institutions to actively justify the charging of any premium fees for postgraduate courses, with reference to the actual economic cost of delivering it and/or the increased value of the resulting course.

Both undergraduates and postgraduates have been lumbered with progressively higher hidden course costs in recent years, in the form of charges such as library fees and lab bench fees. NPC believes that institutions should be open and honest with the cost of their degrees, and that the tuition fees should cover all academic costs. Failing that, institutions should at least clearly state in their prospectuses the total cost of their courses if this is more than the tuition fees.

Whilst it is ultimately the Government's responsibility to implement effective legislation to limit premium fees and hidden course costs, NPC also encourages individual institutions to keep stealth fees out of their own courses.

NPC supports:

  • Legislation to restrict institutions ability to levy premium tuition fees for both home/EU and overseas students;
  • An end to hidden course costs or, if this is not possible, transparent details of all academic costs payable on top of tuition fees;
  • Targeting the Government to implement this nationwide, and individual institutions to implement this for their own courses.