Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Private Providers to Get ABB Advantage over Public Peers: News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Private Providers to Get ABB Advantage over Public Peers: News

Article excerpt

BIS applies cap in 2014, but with terms allowing 'back door' expansion. David Matthews reports.

Private institutions will be allowed a route to "expansion via the back door", it has been claimed, after it emerged that they will be able to recruit high-grade students more freely than publicly funded universities in 2014-15.

In that academic year, private providers will for the first time be subject to the same overall cap on student numbers as public institutions, a move confirmed by government guidance released last week, potentially bringing to an end several years of rapid, uncapped growth in the private sector.

Like publicly funded institutions, private providers will be able to recruit an unlimited number of high-grade students from 2014-15, currently defined as those achieving grades ABB at A level.

But unlike state-funded universities, private providers will not have their student number controls reduced as a consequence of their estimated ABB population, potentially giving them a bigger allocation than their publicly funded counterparts.

A publicly funded university with 2,000 students, of which half are ABB, would be allowed to recruit 1,000 students plus as many ABB students as it wishes. But for 2014-15, a private university with the same student profile would be allowed to recruit 2,000 students, with unlimited numbers of ABB students on top of that.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the Million+ group of newer universities, said that this meant private providers "are effectively being offered a route to expansion via the back door".

The system, which will operate only for one year, is being put in place for 2014-15 because there is no accurate record of how many high-grade students attend private providers, it is understood.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has also assumed that private providers attract few ABB students, and thus there is likely to be little extra cost as a result of the policy shift. …

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