Cautious universities leaving places unfilled

 

University places have been left unfilled because institutions are scared of being penalised for recruiting too many students.

Ministers announced they are giving universities the power to take on more students than allowed under their allocations to reduce the chance of places sitting empty.

Under the current system, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) can effectively fine institutions for exceeding their set student numbers by cutting their grant.

But this has led to universities taking a "cautious" approach to student recruitment, which can lead to unfilled places, according to Business Secretary Vince Cable and universities minister David Willetts.

In a letter to HEFCE today, setting out the priorities for higher education in the 2013/14 academic year, the ministers said there should be a "buffer zone", so institutions that slightly exceed their quotas are not penalised.

It said: "We know that many institutions will take a cautious approach to recruitment in attempting to avoid such grant reductions. This can lead to unfilled places.

"To reduce that risk for 2013/14, I would like you to allow institutions to recruit up to 3% above their total recruitment of HEFCE fundable students.

"This buffer zone would allow institutions to avoid grant reductions for minor over-recruitment. Grant reductions will continue to be applied where institutions recruit above these agreed number limits."

The letter adds that ministers want to "further liberalise the system" from 2014/15 onwards to allow popular universities to expand.

The University and College Union (UCU) said proposals to allow institutions to recruit extra students showed that Government changes to student recruitment had failed.

Recent reforms have allowed universities to take on as many students with at least two A grades and a B at A-level as they like.

This is being extended to cover students with at least ABB.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "The move to allow universities to over-recruit is an interesting one and presumably has been introduced after the failings of the Government's recent reforms, which left many universities with unfilled places."

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of vice-chancellors group Universities UK, said: "We support the introduction of greater flexibility into the system, and had argued for a buffer zone to be introduced to allow universities to respond better to student demand.

"In 2012, some universities were unable to fill all their places due to the rigid limits on student numbers."

In November, Professor Sir Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, revealed that thousands of places at the UK's top universities were left empty last year as a result of the Government's higher education reforms.

The 11,500 unfilled spots were an "unintended consequence" of the current overhaul of the university sector, he said.

Speaking at the Girls' Schools Association (GSA) annual conference in Liverpool, Sir Howard said: "One of the startling unintended consequences is that currently, this year, there is about 11,500 empty places in Russell Group universities."

This "certainly wasn't the intention" of the reforms, he said.

The reasons for the empty places are that "downward pressure on A-level grades meant that there wasn't as many around to recruit, there was some slacking of demand in certain subjects, mainly humanities and social sciences".

Universities also had to hand back a certain proportion of their places, which were then bid for by institutions that kept their fees to £7,500 or less.

These "core and margin" places also had an effect, Sir Howard suggested.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine