Fees hike hits sandwich courses

9 March 2012

The dramatic hike in university tuition fees is already resulting in a sharp decline in the number of popular construction sandwich courses offered by universities, according to the results of a CIOB survey.

The survey also suggests that the number of mature students being sponsored by their employers on part-time degrees is also likely to decline.

Meanwhile, a survey of construction employers undertaken by the UKCG also found that employers are turning away from sponsoring or employing "sandwich" students as the impact of £9,000-a-year tuition fees starts to bite.

In January, the CIOB surveyed 45 universities that offer CIOB-accredited construction courses, receiving 17 responses. Asked whether the new fees had already affected applicant numbers, 61% said they didn't yet know, 28% said they had and 9% said they hadn't.

The results also showed that courses where students spend 12 or six months of the course working for an employer had already been hit. All 17 of those that responded said they would not be offering sandwich courses starting in September.

The UKCG also conducted its survey in January, receiving responses from 20 construction employers. This revealed that only 13 were planning to sponsor students on construction sandwich courses starting in 2012.

Apart from sponsored students, the group was planning to employ 82 sandwich students (on six or 12-month placements) in 2012 — an average of four per company. For summer placements, the respondents indicated they would be taking on 59 students in total.

The new fees system is also likely to reduce the number of students sponsored by their employer to study part-time. Previously, part-time students — or their employers — had to pay the fees upfront, but now both full-time and part-time students defer payment until after graduation. The change could make part-time courses more popular for students who can combine earning and learning.

But sponsoring employers will now find that fees have rocketed. "Construction employers often sponsor older students through degree courses, but the new fees will obviously affect the part-time route. They typically now cost £4,000 a year, but last five years — so the employer now has to find £20,000," said Rosalind Thorpe, head of education at the CIOB.

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