Universities face pressure to reduce arts places

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS of students who want to study arts or social science subjects will find it harder to get into university because of new funding changes.

The Government wants to slow down the dramatic growth in university expansion which its own policies have fostered. It has decided to try to discourage universities recruiting students to study 'classroom-based' (mainly the arts and social sciences) subjects.

It stated in the Autumn Statement that for the three academic years 1993-94 to 1995-96 it wanted consolidation, rather than increases, in student numbers. Expansion has been much quicker and greater than either the Department for Education, or the Treasury, contemplated.

The Government is planning to increase the differentials between band 1 (non-laboratory courses, ie arts and social sciences) tuition fees, and band 2 (laboratory courses). These fees are usually publicly funded. The universities get pounds 1,885 for a band 1 student and pounds 2,770 for a band 2.

The Government is planning to reduce band 1 fees so these students become less attractive to universities because they bring in less income. Yesterday the Higher Education Funding Council for England told universities that it would compensate them in full for all arts and social science students now on courses. But it warned that it could not do so for any years beyond that.

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals said that the Government had consistently underestimated public demand for higher education.

Its chairman, David Harrison, said: 'They have told us to plan for expansion and we have. The public's response has surprised the Government . . . Now the Government has got cold feet and decided to hold student intakes steady for the next three years.

'Cutting the money which universities get to teach classroom- based subjects will mean tougher competition for places. Much of the expansion has been in just those areas which are now to be cut back . . .'