Universities To Increase Spending On Poorer Students, Urged To Spend Money Wisely
Over a third of university courses will charge £9,000 a year tuition fees, according to figures from the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).
After the government raised its cap on tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000. On average courses will cost around £8,000.
OFFA has announced increased spending on access for poorer students by almost £200m in the next four years.
But by the end of the year 2015-16, universities will spend £602m on access, compared to an estimated £407m in 2011-12.
The figure will increase to £738m when factoring in contributions from the government's National Scholarship Programme.
Despite the incrased investment, student groups have questioned whether the actual cash is being spent wisely, saying OFFA cannot regulate the access system properly.
NUS President Liam Burns told the Huffington Post that OFFA was toothless.
"OFFA is an organisation completely lacking in the necessary powers to ensure that universities give appropriate support to poorer students, set adequate targets for widening participation and to set real sanctions if those targets are not met.
"Instead we see universities forced by political motivations to set fee waiver levels that will aid the government's balance sheet more than students and to under-invest in bursaries and sponsorships that put funds in student pockets."
Simon Hughes, the Advocate for Access to Education and Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, urged universities to spend the money carefully.
"All universities must understand that this extra investment has now to lead to results," he said.
"From now on, all universities will be assessed on their performance in improving access every year. In future universities which do not deliver greater access must face penalties."
The money will go to schemes to improve drop-out rates, overall outreach, bursaries and fee waivers - where students receiving full government support will have their fees reduced.
OFFA have said they will "monitor the impact of the new arrangements very carefully".
But the government's Universities minister David Willetts said that if universities are more "ambitious" it could result in a "step change" in social mobility.