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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas