Twenty-seven universities and colleges have submitted revised access agreements for 2012-13 to date, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) announced today (7 November 2011). These 27 institutions wish to reduce their average fee to £7,500 or below in order to bid for some of the 20,000 places created under the new ‘core and margin’ system. They may do this by reducing their fees, introducing fee waivers or a combination of the two.
OFFA has also received new access agreements from seven publicly funded FECs that wish to bid for places from the ‘margin’ but do not already have an access agreement.
OFFA will now assess the revised agreements and will inform institutions of its decisions by 30 November. Institutions who receive approval for their revised agreement must then contact existing applicants to let them know that their financial package has changed. This will give applicants affected by the changes time to reconsider their course options, if they wish, by the UCAS deadline of 15 January 2012. OFFA has said it will not approve any changes for 2012-13 that reduce the overall level of financial support to students in existing agreements.
Revisions to access agreements follow Government changes to student number controls for 2012-13 – the so-called ‘core and margin’ system. This will cut up to 20,000 places from ‘core’ student numbers and reallocate them in a ‘margin’ to publicly funded HEIs and FECs that commit to charging an average fee of £7,500 or less (net of fee waivers under the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s rules) and can demonstrate demand and the quality of their provision. Qualifying institutions can bid for an allocation of the places available. See (HEFCE Circular Letter 2011/30).
OFFA will not be naming the institutions that have submitted revised agreements. However, when it announces its decisions on revised agreements for 2012-13, it will name institutions whose access agreements have been approved.
Notes to editors
- Friday 4 November 2011 was the deadline for universities and colleges wanting to charge fees of more than £6,000 in 2012-13 to submit revised access agreements to OFFA, so that they can bid for places under the new ‘core and margin’ system. OFFA will consider revised agreements that arrive after the 4 November deadline but has warned institutions that it will deal with revisions on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and is likely to turn down revisions for 2012-13 entrants where there is insufficient time for applicants to review their course choices by the UCAS deadline of 15 January 2012
- OFFA’s guidance note ‘Revisions to access agreements for 2012-13’ setting out the criteria that it will use to assess revised access agreements is available at www.offa.org.uk/guidance-notes/revisions-to-access-agreements-for-2012-13-core-and-margin/
- Following consultation with the sector, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published information on 17 October 2011 on the bidding process under the new ‘core and margin’ system. Details can be found at www.hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2011/snc.htm
- To date, OFFA has approved 2012-13 access agreements for 141 institutions – 123 higher education institutions and 18 further education colleges. Under the agreements universities and colleges plan to increase investment in access measures to £602 million a year by 2015-16, up from £407 million in 2011-12. This figure rises to £738 million a year when the Government’s contribution to the National Scholarship Programme is included. Under existing access agreements, the estimated sector fee average is £8,393. This reduces to £8,161 when fee waivers are included.
- OFFA published data for those universities and colleges with approved access agreements for 2012-13 in July. This data covers the 139 institutions for which OFFA had approved agreements by 12 July 2011. Access agreements for two further institutions – London Studio Centre and Warwickshire College – were approved after this list was published.
- The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent, non-departmental public body established under the Higher Education Act 2004 to help promote and safeguard fair access to higher education. The main way we do this is by approving and monitoring ‘access agreements’. All English universities and colleges offering full-time (and in future, part-time, subject to Parliamentary approval) undergraduate higher education courses must have an access agreement with us in order to charge higher fees. Access agreements set out the fees an institution wishes to charge and the access measures they will put in place to sustain or improve access and student retention. Access measures include outreach (e.g. summer schools, mentoring, after-school tuition and links with schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas) and financial support such as fee waivers, bursaries and scholarships. For more about OFFA, please see our website www.offa.org.uk, particularly the Quick Facts and FAQ in the Press section.
For further information, contact Zita Adamson, Communications Manager at OFFA, on 0117 931 7272 or 0117 931 7171.
 24 higher education institutions and three further education colleges.