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UCAS figures on applications

September 15, 2012

The UCAS figures published on Friday made for a nasty surprise.

Undergraduate courses at established higher education institutions subject to Student Number Controls have filled 52 000 fewer places for 2012 entry when compared to last year.

The Russell Group are focusing their complaints about Hefce’s failure to predict the number of applicants holding AAB+ at A-level.

85 000 places were removed from the ‘core’ allocations of individual institutions in relation to their previous AAB+ recruitment. UCAS reports that only 79 000 such students have accepted places. For the Russell Group, it is probably significant that only 51 000 of those had sat A levels (as compared to 61 000 in 2011). There are therefore between 6 and 10 000 fewer eligible applicants in the system and because of the way the artificial recruitment pools work, those losses are felt at the second or third tier of selective universities. (UCL and Bristol managed to expand by a few hundred places each).

The real story is elsewhere though. Despite the vagaries of conditional offers and A level results this year, there was little significant increase in Clearing activity or those adjusting upwards on the back of better than anticipated grades.

The number of non-ABB applicants accepting places for 2012 entry fell to 223,000 from 260,000.  What’s happened there is not clear yet, but as a guess: applicants only receiving offers from their third, fourth or fifth choices were less likely to accept places than in previous years owing to higher fees.

A large leap in fees combined with ill-considered artificial restrictions on recruitment have delivered the HE sector a big problem. It was predictable and predicted.

Update: I realised a stage of my reason went unstated in the above. If there are fewer AAB+ than expected, then they ought to show up in the ‘non-AAB’, so the fall there is worse than a simple comparison with 2011.

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