The end of 2010 saw both the House of Commons and the House of Lords pass proposals to cut almost all University funding and allow Universities to charge annual tuition fees of up £9,000. Although these proposals won’t be introduced until 2012, what can students expect in the meantime for 2011?

Firstly, although the proposals were passed by both Houses of Parliament, the government has not come out providing a white paper on the plans for higher education funding. This is expected ‘early this year’, probably around the end of January/February time.

 As a result, some may anticipate more student outrage around this time, although the government has clearly set out its plans in detail already so expect to hear nothing we didn’t already know. Furthermore, a large part of last year’s student activists may have lost interest in protesting against a cause that has already been passed by both Houses.

The firm activists however, will unite with planned TUC protests and rallies planned for January 29, and then later on March 26.

In response, the government may possibly release details of new higher education scholarship schemes (‘currently being developed’), after slightly amending previously criticised plans unveiled last December to provide a year’s free tuition for students in receipt of free school meals from some of the country’s poorest backgrounds.

March 2011 will also see the coalition government’s first Budget Day, another reminder for students and University institutions of the severity of the cuts they face, but again probably offering no surprises.

The National Census in March will involve students around this time too; not only participating, but many are currently being recruited to help with the data collection, providing cash injections for students during the Easter break.

Key performance targets in higher education funding will be sent to the Secretary of State in Spring time for approval, read more in Vince Cable and David Willett’s letter to the Chairman of the Higher Education Funding Council setting out plans for the upcoming year.

One thing that will strike a chord with voting students will be the referendum on electoral reform and the alternative vote system, held alongside local elections on May 5. Not only a key topic for the Lib Dems, but also for politically active students.

One the one hand, a fair few students I know have chuckled at the idea of Lib Dems losing this battle after putting their necks so firmly on the line for the Tories regarding tuition fees last year; however, the majority of students have expressed their desire to see a fairer system of voting – one in fact that is used in most student unions across the country.

Coming into summer, July will see the end of the government funded campaign Aimhigher, established in 2003 to widen and increase participation in higher education. Although this will affect college students and not those at University, it has mostly been University students who have benefited from the programme previously themselves who have been most vocal on the cut.

Although the Aimhigher scheme may be seen as vital in some of the poorest areas of the UK, generally speaking what it offers is no different from well equipped student career services, and so hopefully as long as we will see an improvement in this service in these poorer areas, the scrapping of the Aimhigher programme won’t be too detrimental to encouraging participation in HE. (Although this may be a different matter to widening it).

In fact, if anything, this year already looks set to see an even further dramatic increase in applications for University places. Applications for 2011/12 entry are so far up from the last academic year by 2.5%. Furthermore, it seems students are taking note of the government’s proposals, and the media’s take on the graduate job market with Medicine applications up 18.5% from last year, and Humanities subjects such as languages down by 5.1%. (The Times Higher Education).

So in August and September, expect even higher figures than we have seen before of those unable to secure a place and an absolutely manic clearing time when A-level results are released at the end of August.

There’s a chance things could get worse for new University students with the possibility of more problems such as delays from the Student Loans Company in October, however the company seems to have largely ironed out some of the major issues they experienced in the year before last, which saw some students not receiving their loans until up to 4 months after they were due.

The first semester of the next academic year and last months of 2011 will seem remarkably quiet in comparison with those of last year. On campus, students can expect to see an increase in those involved with extra-curricular activities such as clubs and societies, in attempted bids to improve CVs in an increasingly competitive graduate jobs market and squeeze as much as possible from their degrees – aware that next year’s first years will be paying between double and triple what this year’s students will be.

 

 What do YOU think lies ahead for students this year? Have I missed anything? Do you agree? Please feel free to leave me your comments…

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