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Controlling HE finances with no recruitment caps

December 6, 2013

One of the biggest conundrums resulting from yesterday’s Autumn Statement announcement about HE is how to control the finances without ‘core’ recruitment caps set for each institution.

Perhaps the solution is back in the Browne review. That report recommended introducing a different form of control. Home & EU students with university places would only qualify for ‘student support’, loans and maintenance grants, if they achieved a minimum ‘UCAS tariff’.

From page 33 of that report:

Entitlement to Student Finance will be determined by a minimum entry standard, based on aptitude. This will ensure that the system is responding to demand from those who are qualified to benefit from higher education.

All students who meet the standard will have an entitlement to Student Finance and can take that entitlement to any institution that decides to offer them a place. Institutions will face no restrictions from the Government on how many students they can admit. This will allow relevant institutions to grow; and others will need to raise their game to respond.

Rather than create a new test of aptitude, our proposal builds on the UCAS tariff admissions system, which is currently used by around 70% of full time undergraduate students. … The minimum tariff entry standard will be set every year by Government shortly after the UCAS deadline for receiving applications.

The expansion would make available an extra 30 000 places in 2014/15 and 60 000 in 2015/16 to ‘young people who have worked hard at school, got the results, want to go on learning and want to take out a loan to pay for it’ (George Osborne’).

A minimum entry requirement of this kind would keep control of finances, but test the limits of traditional of ‘institutional autonomy’  and present difficulties for dealing with other qualifications and other forms of experience.

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