Universities use 'bribes' to woo students

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A-level 'market' sparks bidding war for the best and brightest

A student recruitment war generated by the Government's higher-education reforms is forcing universities to behave like football teams in search of top talent, a leading academic claimed last night.

Research by The Independent has revealed that many of the country's middle-ranking universities are trying to woo high-performing A-level candidates with a range of incentives as they try to cling on to those with the benchmark A-level grades of AAB.

The incentives include free , slashing accommodation costs by as much as £1,500 and special bursaries for those with top grades.

Union leaders last night condemned what they see as an "ugly bidding war", forced upon universities by the Coalition's decision earlier this year to allow them to increase their student numbers provided they recruit those with at least two A grades and a B-grade pass. A total of 20,000 places will be available under this scheme.

Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, said: "Universities are like football managers. In order to secure their standing, they have to recruit the best available talent now that the Government has freed up student places." As a result of the shake-up, Bristol is planning to offer 600 additional places to AAB candidates and University College London 300 places. Both are members of the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the most selective research-intensive higher education institutions in the UK.

Faced with this competition, universities outside the Russell Group are responding by offering financial incentives in a bid to keep top students.

Coventry was offering £1,000 a year "academic excellence scholarships" to AAB students or a £1,500 discount on university accommodation, Bradford is offering £1,500 in the first year and £1,000 thereafter. Northampton is offering £2,000 per year to those who put it down as their first choice. Students accepting the offer will be expected to be ambassadors for future students and to secure a 2:1 degree pass.

Professor Smithers added: "The middle-ranking universities can see some of their potential clients being lured away. It is actually positive from the students' point of view. They will be receiving a reward for excellence in their A-levels. I wouldn't be tempted, though, to put my life in the balance for a couple of thousand pounds."

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "By creating an artificial market in A-level scores the Government is forcing a number of universities into an ugly bidding war and is creating instability... Moreover, it is causing the focus to be shifted on to a relatively small group of highly qualified students in preference to those most in need of support."

Today's A-level results are expected to show grades and pass rates at roughly the same level as last year, when 27 per cent of all scripts were awarded an A* or A grade pass following guidance from Ofqual, the exams regulator, in an attempt to stem grade inflation after 28 successive years of rises.

The results will trigger another scramble for university places as, despite a drop of around nine per cent in the number of UK applicants this year, candidates will still outnumber places by about 100,000.

With fees rising to £9,000 from this September, some firms are reporting growing evidence that school-leavers are seeking work rather than a university degree.

Headteachers last night renewed their call for a radical overhaul of the way university places are allocated, demanding a move towards students applying for their places after they had received their A-level results.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
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

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Female PE Teacher

£23760 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering