10 June, 2020
Following the restrictions put in place by the government in an attempt to restrict the spread of Covid-19, many higher education institutions face funding difficulties due to the potential for many students to defer starting courses until the pandemic has passed. Many universities considered making unconditional offers in order to attract students to their institutions, in order to increase attendance and therefore the associated fees, which could arguably influence student choices and be contrary to their educational interests.
In response, the government has imposed restrictions on the number of students institutions can enroll to prevent universities "taking a recruitment approach which would go against the interests of students and the sector as a whole".
The restrictions apply to providers in England, with the allowable number of students capped at their forecast growth plus 5 per cent. Additionally, universities in Wales and Scotland will not be able to increase their intake of English students by more than 6.5 per cent.
However, nuances to the scheme allow institutions to have the ability to bid for an additional 10,000 places in subjects that are "of strategic importance", as defined by the Department for Education. This includes 5,000 for healthcare courses for example.
Any institution which exceed the restricted number of students will have the tuition fees charged reduced in order to "redress the balance". Fees will be capped at an amount proportionate to the level of over-recruitment.
It is hoped that the restrictions will ensure "a fair, structured distribution of students across providers", stabilising the admissions system and helping safeguard the financial stability of providers.
The scheme has attracted particular criticism from devolved nations who believe they will be disproportionately affected as English students historically have formed a larger contingent part of their student body. As to how it works in practice remains to be seen.