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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today released new data showing the differing level of tuition fees charged by English universities for sandwich years and called on the Office for Students to investigate the justifiability of the fees charged.

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“Universities are now permitted to charge tuition fees of up to £1,850 to a UK or EU student who is on a sandwich year. There is significant variability in the fees charged. Many cluster their fees around the maximum cap. Some simply do not charge any fees for a sandwich year.”“In sandwich years, students are often in paid employment. It is unclear what many students are paying thousands of pounds to universities for in their sandwich year, especially as many universities are able to offer sandwich years without charging any fees. The new Office for Students should do comprehensive research into the justifiability of sandwich year fees and, if necessary, take action to stop unjustified charging”

Bright Blue submitted Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 94 English universities on 8 August 2018, asking for:

  • The tuition fees charged to undergraduate students during their sandwich year, in the 2016-17 academic year;
  • The total number of undergraduate students who undertook a sandwich year in the 2016-17 academic year;
  • The total amount of tuition fees collected by the university during the 2016-17 academic year from all undergraduate students who are on placement years;
  • The total cost to the university of administering all placement years for undergraduate students during the 2016-17 academic year.

It should be noted that the 94 English universities we approached do not represent all of the universities in England.

Not all universities responded. Some universities responded stating they could not provide the information. All the responses of the 94 universities can be found here.

The tuition fee cap for home or EU students for sandwich years in 2016-17 was £1,800. The fees charged to international students for sandwich years can be higher. The data shows there is significant variety in the amount charged by universities to UK or EU students for sandwich years, ranging from £0 to £1,800 per year.

The data also shows:

  • 11 of 64 English universities that were able to provide individual fee rates for home students undertaking sandwich years charged no fees in 2016-17.
  • 12 of the 64 English universities that were able to provide individual fee rates for home students undertaking sandwich years charged the maximum fee of £1,800 in 2016-17.
  • The median fee charged by the 64 English universities that were able to provide individual fee rates for home students undertaking sandwich years was £1,000
  • 23 of the 94 English universities we approached either did not reply, or were unable to provide the information requested.