The Office for Fair Access closed at the end of 31 March 2018 and responsibility for higher education access regulation transferred to the Office for Students

Core and margin model for 2012-13 and revisions to access agreements

You may be considering measures to lower your institution’s net average fee, in order to bid for places under the new ‘core and margin’ system. This guidance note sets out how to make any resulting changes to your access agreement.


HEFCE has recently consulted on the implementation of a ‘core and margin’ system, as part of its teaching funding consultation. The system will re-allocate a ‘margin’ of up to 20,000 places in 2012-13 to institutions that have an average fee of £7,500 or less (net of fee waivers) and can demonstrate the quality of their provision. Qualifying institutions will be able to bid for an allocation of the available places.

HEFCE has also published its proposals for how an institution’s net average fee will be calculated, and invited comments on these proposals as part of its consultation.

How to calculate your net average fee

In order to bid for additional places, you will need to commit to an average fee level of £7,500 or below, using HEFCE’s methodology. This takes into account the net average fee across every year of active study for the 2012-13 cohort.

The resulting figure may differ from that published in our Access Agreement data tables for 2012-13 as OFFA’s figure is based on fee levels in 2012-13 only. HEFCE’s assessment also takes into account other factors such as the fees charged for Erasmus students and students on sandwich courses.

HEFCE proposes that, in order to minimise burden, average fees will be monitored as part of the annual OFFA access agreement monitoring return.

Please note that HEFCE will not be publishing its final eligibility criteria for the bidding process until October, following the outcomes of the teaching funding consultation.

What to do if your institution decides to change its fee or support levels to reduce its net average fee

If your institution is considering reducing your net average fee to enable it to bid for some of the 20,000 places, you will need to send us a revised access agreement. 

  • Please email us as soon as possible at to register your interest in doing so. This will help us to plan our workload.
  • Send us your revised access agreement. You may wish to wait until after HEFCE publishes its final eligibility criteria before working on any revisions, although we can consider changes at any stage. Similarly, if you do not currently have an access agreement but now wish to produce one, you should discuss this with us as soon as possible. As we are now entering the application cycle for 2012-13 entry, please make sure that any changes you make to fees or financial support do not disadvantage those who have applied for 2012-13 entry early in the application cycle.
  • Once you have submitted an access agreement, we will aim to assess it within a three-week timescale, based on our existing guidance for 2012-13 agreements.

Got a query?

If you have any queries about revising your access agreement, please contact us by emailing or phoning 0117 931 7171.

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