As far as most of the world of Higher Education is concerned, there is no doubt in anyone’s minds as to which direction universities are taking where tuition fees are concerned. But what does this mean for us in Swansea? Elena Cresci discusses…

Almost all universities in England and Wales have announced their intentions to charge near the 9k mark come September 2012. The Guardian’s Data Blog has a handy list of what exactly universities in England and Wales are planning to charge. At any rate, this is old news; as far as the student community is concerned, fees reaching an average of around £8,500 comes as no surprise. As Welsh universities began rolling out their fee announcements, they came just as a confirmation of something which, in a way, we already knew.

So why am I even writing about it? There’s one interesting edge to this story and it has a very direct link to Swansea University. At the time of writing, almost every major Welsh Higher Education institution have announced what they plan to charge in 2012. Cardiff, Bangor, Aberystwyth and Newport have all formally stated their intentions to charge £9,000 per year in tuition fees.

All the big names… except for Swansea. This university, in Wales’ second city, has no plans to announce their tuition fees until the HEFCW (Higher Education Funding Council in Wales) formally make their decision regarding Welsh universities’ fee requests. A Swansea University spokesperson said:

“As with all universities in Wales, we are working on a fee plan that must be submitted to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) by 31st May. We anticipate a decision will be made by the HEFCW in July.

“It would be premature to speculate at this stage what the outcome of this process will be. What is clear is that the University will continue to demonstrate and evidence its commitment to present and future students by promoting the equality of opportunity of access to higher education and continuous investment in delivering a great student experience that supports Swansea students in gaining a good degree and, equally important, a good job.”

We believe there is an extremely high probability Swansea University have requested they charge the highest tier of fees come 2012. You could say this is something we knew as soon as the likes of Cardiff and Aberystwyth chose to do just this, but I’d venture to say it was something we knew as soon as the Government lifted the cap. Regardless, the bad news is undoubtedly on its way, so why is the university remaining so hush hush about it?

The HEFCW’s decision is slated for July, and the university won’t budge until the council’s announcement has been made. This overly cautious mood is all very well and good until you remember every other Welsh university in the same league and above Swansea have done exactly the opposite. Ultimately, at a time when Swansea University desperately needs transparency as far as the contentious issue of fees is concerned, it is unfortunately the case that the university instead have decided to work on a far more secretive and inaccessible level.

Their caution regarding any such announcement is understandable; the students of Swansea have made it abundantly clear this year we are not the docile, accepting types when it comes to bad news about Higher Education, heading to demonstrations in London in our droves and picketing our very own Singleton Abbey in outrage at the proposed cuts to MFL. The bad news will be a bitter pill for the activists of Swansea University’s Student Union, all of whom worked so hard to prevent this eventuality. Inevitably, Swansea University have singled themselves out for separate scrutiny by leaving their announcement to lag so far behind other Universities’.

While we certainly don’t know if 9k is the way Swansea University has chosen for certain, we won’t be surprised if, come July, that is exactly the news which is released. Withholding their plans means only that Swansea is prolonging discussion about figures when we should have moved on to talk about exactly how the university will make itself worth 9k a year.