The new boss of the UEA has labelled fixed tuition fees "challenging" as university chiefs across the country call for a reform to existing funding models.

Professor David Maguire's comments come as the University of East Anglia grapples with a £45m deficit brought on by issues with student recruitment and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Norwich Evening News: New UEA vice chancellor David MaguireNew UEA vice chancellor David Maguire (Image: University of East Anglia)

READ MORE: New UEA vice-chancellor David Maguire addresses its struggle

And changes to student loans - including those that will see graduate debts written off after 40 years, rather than 30 - could rock university finances even further as prospective students choose alternative means of higher education.

"We are aware that cost considerations are more important than ever before for prospective students and those currently studying with us," said the UEA's new vice-chancellor.

"Anything which increases the perceived or actual cost of studying at university is regrettable, but even after these changes going to university remains a life-changing experience.

"Fixed fees are a challenge for the higher education sector, due to inflation and the rise in cost of living.

Norwich Evening News: UEA is currently in the midst of a financial crisis - with the university facing a £45 million deficitUEA is currently in the midst of a financial crisis - with the university facing a £45 million deficit (Image: Denise Bradley)

READ MORE: UEA says staff departures will not impact students

"However, we recognise that simply increasing fees may not solve the problem – and we are keen to take any opportunity to be involved in discussions with peers to review higher education funding models and find a more suitable solution for all."

In January, the government announced annual tuition fees would stay frozen at £9,250 for the next two years.

And university chiefs across the UK have warned against hiking them - with professor Chris Husbands, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, recently declaring it is "not the way go for students."

City College Norwich expects the existing challenges at universities could encourage students to find alternative methods of higher education.

Norwich Evening News: City College principal Jerry WhiteCity College principal Jerry White (Image: City College Norwich)

READ MORE: Dozens of academics to lose their jobs as details of UEA redundancy plans emerge

"Many students choose to do their degrees with us because it enables them to live at home and continue to work alongside their studies, which helps offset the costs of university-level study," said Jerry White, principal at City College.

"It may be that these changes make even more students consider that studying locally gives them all the benefits of the skills and knowledge of higher education without many of the costs."

A student's view

Eleanor Radford, 19, from Somerset, is an International Relations student at the UEA and is about to enter her third year of study.

Norwich Evening News: UEA student Eleanor RadfordUEA student Eleanor Radford (Image: Eleanor Radford)

While there were some difficulties and concerns coming to university in 2021, I knew I would be able to afford my food shop out of my student loan without too much worry.

But coming around to the start of year two, my concerns over food prices had grown massively due to the cost of living crisis.

Now with the announcements of 10 years added to paying off student loans and a 12% interest rate on maintenance loans, the worries over financial security both currently and in the future have grown massively for myself and my peers.

Some have turned to other options instead of maintenance loans to avoid the large interest rate being placed on them, while others have taken interest-free loans from the university to support them throughout the year.

If I had been aware of these concerns when applying for university, I would have considered studying locally. This would have allowed me to commute and have a smaller maintenance to pay off in the future.