No Bonanza for Those Who Left Places Unfilled

Times Higher Education, March 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

No Bonanza for Those Who Left Places Unfilled


Big post-92s suffer as Hefce steers allocations towards strongest recruiters. John Morgan writes

Universities that proved less popular with undergraduates this year have had their student number allocations for next year cut, despite the government making 30,000 extra places available.

Figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England reveal for the first time which universities did not meet their places quotas in 2013-14, a year in which most institutions' enrolments bounced back after the first year of higher tuition fees.

Big post-1992 universities such as Kingston University, the University of East London, Liverpool Hope University and Staffordshire University will all have undergraduate allocations cut by about 3 per cent for next year, indicating that they fell short by corresponding amounts this year.

But institutions facing a cut - which may have intended not to fill their allocations last year - will be given the chance to recover next year via more "flexibility" on student numbers. Hefce revealed the figures in its announcement of recurrent grants and student number controls for 2014-15, published on 27 March. This provisionally allocates £3.9 billion of funding: £1.6 billion for teaching, £1.6 billion for research, £160 million for knowledge exchange and £583 million for "national facilities" and capital funding.

Earlier this month, Hefce warned institutions that most teaching budgets will drop by 5.85 per cent in 2014-15. This fall was greater than expected, largely reflecting that funding must stretch to cover the extra 30,000 places.

George Osborne, the chancellor, announced in December's Autumn Statement that there would be 30,000 extra student places in 2014-15, as a prelude to abolishing the cap on student numbers entirely in 2015-16.

Hefce had already said that it would allocate places for next year based on this year's student demand, but that was before the government announced the 30,000 extra places and the removal of the numbers cap.

Hefce says in its report on the allocations that it "distributed the overall 30,000 increase in places available in a way which...gives providers significant scope to grow if they have the demand from students".

Student number allocations were raised "for those that recruited strongly" and cut "for those that significantly under-recruited". The level of reductions reflected "the extent to which [institutions'] recruitment came below the bottom of the 2013-14 flexibility range", Hefce adds. …

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