University 'bribe' to cut arts intake: Funding council says cash makes up for cuts in fees as students without required grades face rejection. Judith Judd reports

UNIVERSITIES will be given money to leave vacancies on arts courses for the next academic year unfilled, although demand is greater than ever. Vice-chancellors say the Higher Education Funding Council is bribing institutions not to fill several thousand arts places and the money should be spent on recruiting students.

The council denies the accusation, saying that the pounds 3.5m it has set aside for expanding universities is compensation for institutions which had planned to expand rapidly and whose future might be threatened by government cuts in tuition fees.

The trouble stems from last September's decision by ministers to halt university expansion for three years and cut tuition fees for arts and social science students, including law, economics and some business studies courses. Peter Knight, vice-chancellor of the University of Central England in Birmingham, which is not one of those receiving compensation, described the decision to pay out the pounds 3.5m as 'academic set-aside'.

'It looks as if the funding council is intending to bribe institutions to have empty places. They will get money providing they don't recruit the students they were planning to recruit. This is not a rational policy when there are well-qualified students seeking places.'

Tuition fees for arts students have been reduced for 1993-94 from pounds 1,855 a year to pounds 1,300. Those for science and engineering students have been frozen at pounds 2,770. The universities which have been offered compensation - all former colleges of higher education or polytechnics - expect to receive money for several hundred students each. One said the sum was the equivalent of pounds 1,000 per student.

Most universities are expected to refuse places to arts and social science students whom they would have taken in previous years because they fail to meet the exact terms of the offers made to them.

They say they will have to reject students who do not achieve the precise terms of their offers, even if they achieve high grades. Legal opinion given to some new universities recently suggests that institutions will have to accept all students who achieve the required grade in each subject though the principle has never been tested in court.

But an applicant for an English course who is asked for an A in English and an A and a B in two other subjects, but who gets a B in English plus two As, can legally be rejected. Students who do better than expected in arts subjects will also have difficulty finding a place. Dr Knight said that some students who failed to meet the precise terms of their offer had been rejected in the past.

The funding council said some universities would have to recruit fewer arts students than planned, but that was not the same as leaving places empty. 'Universities are looking at this in terms of student numbers. We see it as compensation for loss of fee income which they would have expected to receive. It is not linked to the loss of individual students. We don't regard it as a significant issue. We feel obliged to assist them in adjusting to the new fee levels.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent