Reforms will hit middle-ranking universities

 

A dramatic shift in higher-education provision with middle-ranking universities struggling to survive is predicted today by the head of one of the country's biggest exam boards.

More students will be encouraged instead to stay at home and earn while they learn rather than go away for a three-year university course.

A growing number of school leavers will sign up for further-education colleges offering degree courses because they charge less, said Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Oxford, Cambridge and Royal Society of Arts exam board. His comments were echoed by university lecturers' leaders last night.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "There is a real danger of many institutions charging fees just to make up the shortfall from the slashing of their teaching grants."

Many further education colleges are fixing their fees at less than £6,000 a year – the figure beyond which providers need agreement with the higher-education access watchdog, the Office for Fair Access, to charge more. Students will do foundation degrees with the colleges before finishing their degrees with better-known universities. In addition, the Open University, which is planning to charge £5,000 for courses, will pick up student numbers once the rest of the sector is able to charge up to £9,000 a year.

Mr Dawe said universities in the Russell Group – which represents 20 of the country's most prestigious universities – would have no difficulty in keeping up student numbers.

"There will be competition amongst them to pick up students with AAB passes [at A-level]," he said. "It's a number of the middle-ranking new universities that must be worrying whether they're going to get their student numbers."

Some university vice-chancellors believe they may have to reduce their fees in 2013 if they fail to recruit enough students next year charging the maximum fee. Seven universities are already on a list of institutions thought to be "at high risk" prepared by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. One estimate suggests this could rise to 23 by the end of the first year of the new fees structure.

These are understood to include London Metropolitan University, which has been forced to pay back £32m to the Government after overclaiming for students, and Thames Valley University, now known as the University of West London.

A later report warns of the risk to funding if student numbers drop next year – 56 per cent of universities are expecting a reduction. It also says university-budget surpluses are set to fall in 2012 by nearly £400m to £215m, adding that this is mainly accounted for by just a few well-off institutions.

Mr Dawe also disclosed that his board was recommending incentives to spur academics into becoming more involved with setting exam papers. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, would like to see universities more involved in the setting of questions – so that the exam stretches candidates more and gives them the expertise to embark upon a university course.

One way this could be done is by rating dons on their involvement with setting exams. This would give universities that boast excellent teaching standards extra grants.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Nursery Manager is required t...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before