Getting in to university - how tough will it be?

09 Feb 2010

 More fascinating information from the UCAS annual conference on admissions, which I am chairing in London today....

This morning we heard from Professor Sir Peter Scott, Vice Chancellor at Kingston University and former editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement.

His view is that you have to go right back to the 1930's to find a period when there was last a period when university student numbers in the UK were not generally increasing. And, as he points out, unlike now there was no general rise in demand in the 1930's when loans and grants were not available.

So,with UCAS figures showing a rise of 106,000 applicants this year, and the number of places available due to fall by 6,000, he says we are in 'genuinely unexplored territory'.

Sir Peter believes it is very 'unlikely' that a new government will lift the cap on student numbers after the election and he believes more serious cuts are on the way (incidentally, he believes some have over-blown the current level cuts and says universities will survive them).

However, he argues that admissions tutors will 'play safe' this year and next because of the financial penalties if universities over recruit. The fines that universities will face for over recruitment would mean they would lose money on extra students, even after allowing for the extra student fee income. 

He believes the current fees review under Lord Browne will not provide the 'quick fix' to the current problems, as there will be many political barriers to change. 

He is also fearful about the impact on widening participation if universities retrench and 'play safe' n admissions. He thinks they may start to show a bias against non-traditional qualifications (i.e. non A levels and Highers).


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