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Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on University Composition Fee rates for the M.Phil. Degree and certain other postgraduate qualifications

The COUNCIL and the GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. In this Report the central bodies propose that provision be made, subject to various safeguards, to allow for differential, higher, rates of University Composition Fee to be charged to students admitted to particular M.Phil. or other taught postgraduate courses. It is intended that higher fee rates for particular courses would more closely reflect the real cost of providing these courses and could first be applied to students admitted with effect from October 2006.

2. In May 2002 the General Board received a Report of a Committee, chaired by the Mistress of Girton College, which they had established to review the University's M.Phil. provision. Amongst that Report's recommendations was that:

The opportunity should exist, subject to oversight by the Councils of the Schools and centrally, for differential, higher, rates of University Composition Fee to apply to particular programmes. Means should, in such cases, be found (a) to channel additional income earned direct to the institution(s) concerned and (b) to make up the difference between the higher fee rates and rates paid by studentship providers. Any case made for charging a differential fee should address access issues.

3. The above recommendation was made in the context of related recommendations, including the development of transparent costing models for M.Phil. courses, made in the awareness that the Resource Allocation Model would provide a clear indication of the income attributable to M.Phil. (and other teaching) programmes. The Review Committee found that the necessarily resource-intensive nature of M.Phil. courses had not been reflected in the resources allocated to them. There has been a considerable shortfall between the actual costs associated with M.Phil. teaching and the funding provided through Composition Fee income and, for UK/EU students, through the 'Teaching' stream of the HEFCE block grant. Whilst the Review Committee also recognized that different courses served different purposes, it noted that some were primarily of a professional or vocational nature, in that they provided advanced training for graduates seeking a postgraduate qualification to enhance their career prospects. The Review Committee also noted that many other universities charged higher fee rates for comparable courses and that they had long since departed from a 'standard' fee rate applicable across all Masters courses.

4. The Council's Allocations Report for 2003-04 (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 1074) included a commitment to consider variable postgraduates fees, based on transparent costing studies. The Report for 2004-05 (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 716) also referred to the likelihood of variable fees for some 'high value' taught postgraduate courses featuring in the Schools' strategic plans.

5. At present, with the exception of the M.B.A., the M.Ed., and the M.St. Degrees, all postgraduate students classed as UK/EU for fee purposes are charged a standard rate of University Composition Fee (£3,010 for 2004-05). Annual rates have reflected those recommended by the Department for Education and Skills. Year on year increases have been modest. Students classed as Overseas for fee purposes are charged according to one of three bands: Band 1 (clinical courses - £19,614 for 2004-05); Band 2 (courses with a substantial laboratory or workshop component - £10,596); Band 3 (other courses - £8,088).

6. The Council and the General Board are of the view that it is now timely to implement the recommendation of the General Board's M.Phil. Review Committee and to extend the possibility of differential fee rates to other taught postgraduate courses. The extent to which teaching provision has been underfunded has been well documented. The University has experienced a continuous erosion, over recent years, in the real terms level of its 'T' grant from the HEFCE. There seem no prospects of this situation improving: the HEFCE baseline teaching funding to Cambridge for 2004-05 represents a less than inflationary increase over 2003-04. In the University's current financial situation, the central bodies are of the view that, where circumstances allow, fee rates for students following postgraduate taught courses should more closely reflect actual teaching costs.

7. The central bodies do not believe that substantially higher fee rates could realistically be implemented across all taught postgraduate courses, without seriously undermining the University's ability to attract the most able students across the range of its postgraduate provision. However, there are programmes where those seeking admission to certain courses (and their sponsors) would be able to make a significantly higher contribution to the costs of their postgraduate education. The central bodies do not believe that there are any difficulties with their proposal in terms of discrimination legislation, in that fee rates would reflect the cost of provision. As indicated in paragraph 3, such arrangements have been in place in other universities for some time.

8. The Council and the General Board accept that any proposal to charge a higher rate of fee will require careful scrutiny. That scrutiny must take place on the basis of an agreed costing model for taught postgraduate programmes. A model, which commands the general support of the Councils of the Schools, has been developed. It will be developed further to accommodate inter-institutional and cross-School courses.

9. The central bodies intend, in the event that this Report is approved, that institutions seeking to charge a differential fee should be required to make a case for consideration by representatives of the Council of the relevant School, the Board of Graduate Studies (where the course requires registration as a Graduate Student), and the central bodies. The case must be made in advance of the annual admissions cycle so that applicants have clear information about course costs. The case will need to demonstrate that the proposed fee level will reflect actual course costs but will continue to allow for the admission of those most academically qualified. In instances where studentship providers (including the Research Councils, the Colleges, and the Cambridge Trusts) expect to pay the University Composition Fee at the standard rate, the institutions will need to demonstrate how the difference between the two rates will be met through scholarship or bursary schemes. The central bodies will pay particular attention, before promoting the necessary Grace, to ensuring that admissions standards will not be compromised and that the institution has in place particularly effective quality assurance procedures so that student expectations of the quality of the programme can be properly met.

10. If the conditions summarized in paragraph 9 above can be met, the course will, subject to the approval of the necessary Grace, be categorized within a proposed fee band.

11. The Board of Graduate Studies concur with the arrangements proposed.

12. The Council and the General Board recommend:

I. That approval be given to their proposal that, subject to the procedure described in this Report, there should be provision, with effect from October 2006, for differential, higher, rates of University Composition Fee to be charged to students admitted to particular M.Phil. and other taught postgraduate courses.

II. That the table of fee categories appended to the regulations for University Composition Fees (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 153) be amended as necessary, and subject to approval by Grace, for particular taught postgraduate courses.


17 November 2004 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorN. O. A. BULLOCKD. W. B. MACDONALD

Note of dissent

We feel unable to sign the recommendation as it would be premature to implement an ad hoc approach to fees without locating these changes within an overall strategy for M.Phil. provision at Cambridge. The University has yet to make critical decisions about future graduate numbers and College provision for graduate students, and to define the distinctive contribution and purposes of the Cambridge M.Phil. in the context of other postgraduate opportunities. These are issues which should closely inform any decisions about raising fees. Graduate students' concerns about the varying quality of taught postgraduate courses at Cambridge, and about the lack of national and international 'readability' and transferability of the Cambridge M.Phil., will only be compounded by introducing further fee differentials between programmes. Further investigation into the potential impact of fee rises on graduate admissions is also needed before departing in a piecemeal fashion from the current fee arrangements. In addition, the Committee report acknowledges that graduate students were not widely consulted in developing this proposal, meaning that students' perspectives have not been taken adequately into account. For these reasons, we are not convinced that it is 'now timely' to implement differential rates of University Composition Fee for particular M.Phils. or other taught postgraduate courses.

7 February 2005GEMMA DONALDSON

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Cambridge University Reporter 02 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.