Steep price hikes likely for museum degrees
A Museums Association (MA) survey has revealed that the majority of English universities offering museum- and heritage-related undergraduate degrees plan to charge students the maximum £9,000 a year from 2012.
The MA found that almost 75% of the publicly-funded universities questioned are likely to charge the maximum £9,000, while none plan to charge below £8,000. 11 universities offering BA courses such as museum studies and exhibition design were surveyed.
The controversial £9,000 cap was set by the coalition government earlier this year. At the time, ministers predicted that most universities would charge no more than £7,500, but two-thirds have since declared they are likely to charge the full amount for some or all of their courses. Graduates start repayments once their salary reaches £21,000.
Universities charging more than £6,000 must prove to the Office of Fair Access (Offa) that they are fulfilling quotas of disadvantaged students - although Offa's assistant director David Barrett has admitted universities will not be fined for failing to meet targets, according to the Independent.
Most universities surveyed said they have been obliged to charge more just to maintain standards as they struggle to deal with a 40% cut to the universities budget over the next four years.
Deborah Swallow of the Courtauld Institute of Art said: “Following the government funding cuts, our fees must be set at a level that will enable us to maintain the quality of education for which we are recognised and to widen participation further.”
In addition, the MA found that museum- and heritage-related postgraduate courses are likely to cost more from 2012 onwards.
Out of 16 English universities offering postgraduate degrees such as curation, heritage management and conservation, the average price for full-time UK students was found to be £5,000, with most course providers indicating prices would increase in 2012.
Some, such as University College London’s MA in Museum Studies (currently £5,170), expect to rise by £1,000 or more next year.
Just two of the masters degrees surveyed cost less than £4,000 this year; the Courtauld Institute's MA in Wall Painting Conservation (£3,810) and the MA in Curation (£3,900) offered by Norwich University College of the Arts.
MA head of policy Maurice Davies said the tuition fee rises would make it more difficult for the museum sector to diversify.
He said: "The qualifications and experience expected of people entering the museum workforce have crept up and up and up. Museums pay low salaries and yet are able to recruit people with increasingly expensive qualifications and extensive unpaid voluntary or internship experience.
"This does not seem right and cannot help to diversify the workforce. The struggle to get a job in museums was bad a few years ago when I wrote the Tomorrow People report; now it's far worse."
Davies called on the Arts Council England to help museums take a fresh look at the issue.
Will high tuition fees make it harder to enter the museum sector?