Friday, 9 December 2011

HEFCE Announcements on the student number control

HEFCE recently published an important Circular Letter setting out some new policy on student number controls. I'm a little late to blogging about this because of the HESES deadline, which was on Friday 9 December, but now that is past I have time to catch up.

So the key points are:
  • Specialist institutions in the performing and creative arts that recruit primarily on the basis of audition or portfolio  will be able to opt out of the AAB+ and core/margin system. This is a victory for some effective lobbying.
  • Disregard. As you may well have read, institutions (mostly FECs) charging £6k or less are now going to lose core places along with everyone else, however the first 50 places will be protected, so FECs with very small HE provision won't be forced to bid for a half dozen numbers every year. FECs with substantial provision, however, will be very unhappy.
  • E&D. HEFCE will ensure each institution’s student number control limit for 2012-13 is at least 20 per cent of their limit prior to the removal of AAB+ students, so that they can continue to provide fair access to those entering with EU qualifications and to meet their access agreement targets. This is a genuine issue which I've highlighted before (as have others), but of course there is irony in the way that HEFCE have managed the E&D issue by giving rewards to those institutions with the least diverse student bodies...
  • SIVS will be protected. No surprise there: they always are.
  • Under-recruitment: HEFCE say 'Should it be desirable to reduce future student number control limits for under-recruitment in 2012-13, we would normally expect not to do so where the level of under recruitment is not more than 5 per cent of an institution’s student number control or 25 students, whichever is the greater.' so they are not yet introducing a policy of clawing back unfilled numbers, but are setting out what it is likely to be. Since many of us have been expecting such a policy, this clarity is a really welcome development.

I would also recommend Annex B of the letter if you are a fan of bureaucratic cynicism. When HEFCE do these consultations the response is usually an immense amount of special pleading, mixed in with some complete misunderstandings of the issues. I particularly enjoyed the bids for additional funding to Price Group C subjects:

many respondents were...concerned about price group C funding, taking the view that this could not be adequately supported through income from fees alone. Again, there was a concern that this might have an impact on SIVS, in this instance modern languages. Other responses named certain subjects as being more expensive to deliver than the rest of price group C. The range of subjects mentioned was extremely broad, however: the only price group C subjects not to be characterised as exceptional were archaeology, and catering and hospitality management.
It makes me feel proud to work in a sector dedicated to the disinterested pursuit of truth.

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