Universities cut classes: Students lose places because of government funding change

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HUNDREDS of sixth-formers have had offers of university places for the autumn withdrawn because universities are cancelling the courses.

Leeds Metropolitan University has written to 121 people who were accepted for its business management degree as long ago as January, telling them that the course is not going to run; 100 would-be students of transport management and arts and media studies received similar letters from Swansea Institute of Higher Education.

Coventry University is writing to 70 sixth-formers expecting to start accounting degrees in September to say that the course is being withdrawn. Hertfordshire University and several others are cutting back on recruitment to courses which feed into their degree courses.

All the courses are in the arts and social sciences - the group of subjects for which the Government announced a new funding formula last December, just as student applications to higher education closed. Fees per student in classroom-based non-science subjects were cut from pounds 1,850 to pounds 1,300.

Universities, which had been planning to continue their expansion in all subjects, argue that they can barely cope with previous years' growth and cannot afford to recruit the numbers they had planned.

'We just can't do it financially,' said Christopher Price, principal of Leeds. 'The government decision hit us particularly hard, because we have a very big business school and it's all classroom based.'

Students are being encouraged to apply for alternative courses. But colleges have been making offers of places since last September, and the funding squeeze has made admissions officers very cautious in considering late applicants.

'Their chances of finding alternative places at this point are almost nil,' said a spokesman for the official admissions system PCAS.

It sent a warning letter this year to all universities and colleges, informing them that its legal advice suggested that once offers had been made to students they could not be withdrawn. 'The offer of a place constitutes an implicit contract between the institution and the applicant,' the letter said. But legal advice assured the universities there was no contract if courses did not exist.

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