STUDENTS taking higher education courses at Sheffield College are set to pay annual tuition fees of £5,900 a year from 2012 – the same time that the city’s two universities raise their charges.
About 500 of the college’s 17,000 students are on such courses, mainly foundation degrees and higher national diplomas and certificates.
Many of those on the courses are older people who may have opted out of going to university when they left school and are doing courses which include work placements.
Those who are studying part-time will find their fees changed accordingly.
Sheffield College’s fees are broadly in line with those being charged elsewhere in the country and they compare with the maximum £9,000 to be charged by the University of Sheffield and £8,500 at Sheffield Hallam University.
Chief executive Heather MacDonald said: “Our fees have been set to offer value for money to students who want to stay local and benefit from all the opportunities that studying for a higher education course brings.
“We will continue to provide small class sizes, tailored individual support, easy access to tutors in between classes and quality provision. Scholarships will be available to some students from low-income homes.”
The college says students from homes where the total family income is below £25,000 will be able to apply for a fee reduction through a scholarship. Some will be eligible for scholarships totalling £3,000 towards their first-year fees and £1,500 towards the second year. Tuition fees will be charged pro-rata for part-time students.
But Julie Kelley, Yorkshire officer for the University and College Union, said there were grave concerns that students would not be able to afford the new charges.
“Most students on these courses come from the local community, they may be studying part-time and have made a clear decision that they can’t afford to go further afield,” she said.
“They have chosen to study locally and, while these fees may be lower than those levied by universities, many will struggle to continue their courses.
“Another worry is that many foundation degrees may be at least part-funded by students’ employers and in the current financial climate such courses may be seen as a luxury they cannot afford.”
Sheffield College offers a range of foundation degrees in business management and enterprise, fashion design and manufacture, graphic design, media production, performing arts photography, public services, sports coaching and exercise and tourism and events management.
They are designed to focus on practical skills and give students a head start in their career, a foot in the door to the industry or the opportunity to progress to the final year of an honours degree at university.
A survey of Sheffield College’s A-level students found that 87% would be unwilling to pay more than £7,000 a year for university study and 79% were unwilling to pay more than £6,000. Recent tuition fees announcements led students to doubt their plans for university, with 35% becoming unsure of whether to apply.