With the BBC today surmising that at least two-thirds of universities in England want to charge £9,000 a year for some or all courses, the recent media frenzy has clearly not considered the skewed distribution of universities that have actually announced their fees levels.
As William Cullerne Bown’s excellent Exquisite Life blog post highlights, lots of universities in the Russell Group have declared at £9,000, whereas lots of universities in the harder-pressed Million+ have not.
Drawing an average for the entire sector by relying on a simple arithmetical average of the fees declared is inherently flawed and only suitable for eye-catching newspaper headlines. I recommend reading the rest of his post; it’s reassuring to see data points plotted on a graph and some actual analysis with regards to where the average will eventually sit.
But this raises the question of whether an average tuition fee value is even a worthwhile metric to consider, unless you normalise for a number of different variables, for example an institution’s size. Furthermore, from my perspective, this is all rather moot, as the future of tuition fees for higher education in Wales is somewhat more complicated.
UPDATE 2011-04-20: Confirmed today by the Office for Fair Access, (via the Times Higher) that for the 2011-2012 academic year, 139 institutions (consisting of 122 higher education institutions and 17 further education institutions) had submitted draft access agreements by the deadline.
Surely this has blown away the idea that £6k would be the norm and charging up to £9k would only be in “exceptional circumstances”.