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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own