Student Number Control

Learning to love the student loan book

by Emran Mian December 16, 2013

There are two ways to argue for more student places in higher education. The first is easy, just remove the word ‘higher’. So the question is: shall we have some more education? The second is harder – we have to explain why the cost-benefit ratio for more public spending on higher education is greater than competing spending pressures. While higher education detractors from both pick over the government’s recent move to expand higher education, Emran Mian attempts to reframe the debate.

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Gearing up for Clearing

by Andrew Fisher July 30, 2012

We are now in the final stages of preparing for Clearing. This post is about a macro-level question: will we all get enough students to meet our budgets whilst staying below our student number control limits? The answer of course is no: but not in a very interesting way.

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There may be trouble ahead

by Andy Westwood April 30, 2012

Ministers have now made up their minds on student number controls for 2013 opting for an increase in contestable places with a shift from AAB to ABB and equivalents – further opening up the market at the top end. Core and margin will reduce significantly with just 5,000 places top sliced and opened up for lower cost bids but with some flexibilities for higher cost subjects and institutions. So the pace of reform continues as do the central themes of competition, diversity and student choice dictating the success and focus of universities.

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An innovation and efficiencies pot?

by Andy Westwood April 10, 2012

The Government doesn’t quite know what it wants to do with the core and margin policy next year. At the moment their instinct is to run it again on more or less the same terms. Ministers don’t see either AAB or core and margin as permanent features of the system but they are mightily constrained by the short and longer term costs of the student loan book. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the places top sliced and allocated through the core and margin will definitely be filled – UCAS application data shows that the biggest falls have been from older population groups and those perhaps already in work – both more common in the FE sector that has won most of the places.

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Highly provisional provision

by David Kernohan March 29, 2012

Reading the HEFCE grant tables for 2012/2013 is like reading the racing form guide at the back of the Daily Mail. You know that most of what you are seeing is based on extrapolation and guesswork, and you feel fairly dirty and ashamed whilst doing so.

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Strategies for student number control

by Andrew Fisher March 19, 2012

University’s have been faced with a very difficult choice; to choose the high-fee or low-fee route without any clear knowledge of the consequences and much uncertainty about the final regulatory framework. If you look at the relatively small group of HE institutions that have won places in the core/margin allocation, it is clear that most (although not all) of them are relatively unpretentious new universities. On the other hand there are plenty of similar institutions which have set higher fees and did not win any margin numbers. This is an attempt to model the different student number control strategies that are in play and look at the decisions that are currently being in taken because it has never been more important to have a viable strategy for the future.

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MarginCore – the binary divide

by David Kernohan March 7, 2012

Margin places have been allocated to institutions based on on “criteria of quality, demand and cost – only those institutions with average tuition fees in 2012-13 of £7,500 or less (net of fee waivers) were eligible to bid. HEFCE received bids from 203 institutions for 36,000 places. Final allocations were made on a pro rata basis” (the “pro-rata” being that everyone’s allocation was reduced to meet the total fit below the 20,000 places HEFCE could allocate.)

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Interesting questions raised by OU’s 5k fees

by Mark Leach July 21, 2011

Yesterday, The Open University announced plans to charge £5000 fees. A THE story claims that it puts OU in ‘pole position’ to snap up the 20,000 places that are being made contestably available for institutions charging less than £7,500. But these 20,000 places are for full time undergraduate students – currently all of OU’s students are counted as part-time, even if they are studying at a rate of 1FTE.

Where things get complicated are with OU-validated degrees in further education colleges. By putting these 20,000 places aside for low-cost courses, it is the intention of BIS to expand provision in FECs – either validated through a body like OU, or even funded directly. What no one knows for sure is the true extent of the demand for these courses. It must be remembered that these 20,000 places are just theoretical lines on a spreadsheet – they will not necessarily become students unless there is sufficient demand for the low-cost courses in the mix.

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Freeing-up student numbers – what are the wider implications for the sector?

by Richard Brabner May 20, 2011

The opprobrium from parts of the sector and the Westminster Village as a result of David Willetts (either intentionally or being forced to by a ‘leak) exploring the idea of off-quota places meant that the idea was quickly watered-down, to only include business and charity-sponsored off-quota places.

Nevertheless, the Government is clearly looking for more ways to open up the student numbers cap, but in a way that would result in evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. Cameron insider Benedict Brogan in his Telegraph Blog suggested that the White Paper will include ways to let universities recruit more AAB students outside of their cap, whilst also allowing cheaper charging courses to expand outside of student number controls.

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Off-quota places – another unforced HE policy error?

by Mark Leach May 10, 2011

This morning David Willetts took the airwaves to float the idea of ‘off-quota’ places at university. Not a new idea by any means, but an interesting indication of the direction of travel for the HE White Paper which most now expect in the first half of June. On the one hand, there is a sound political argument for leaking out policy initiatives in this way; it can have the effect of softening up the ground for when the big one drops later on.

But David Willetts has underestimated the toxicity of a policy like this which touches a very raw nerve indeed. Still wounded by the fees and funding settlement, this policy will feel like a kick in the teeth to those still clinging on to the idea that access to HE should never depend on the ability to pay. The ‘free at the point of use’ principle, still hanging on by its finger-nails, ensured that there was always going to be the greatest strength of feeling against the deep cuts to the teaching grant. The ensuing high fees for many felt like the sad, but necessary consequence of this – softened by continued commitment not to charge up-front fees.

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MarginCore and the dumb hand of the market

by David Kernohan April 8, 2011

So, the hints coming out of the HEFCE annual conference regarding university funding were, firstly, the imminent appearance of the much delayed White Paper, and, secondly, further tweaks to the Willetts-Browne funding model to avoid the now universal embarrassment that this model costs substantially more than the current one.

What we seem to be blindly heading towards is something called a core/margin model, and that I’m going to call MarginCore. This should come as no surprise to readers of my blog, as we called it back in December. We also said it wouldn’t be a very good idea.

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