Universities fined £21m for recruiting too many students – Telegraph


Universities fined £21m for recruiting too many students

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor

Last Updated: 3:52PM BST 07/06/2012

Universities have been hit with record fines of almost £21 million for over-recruiting students, it emerged today, as institutions attempt to off-set a predicted slump in demand this autumn.

Figures show that 40 universities in England were penalised after exceeding strict Government controls on the number of new entrants.

Total fines levied this year were more than two-and-a-half times those imposed a year earlier.

In 2010/11, 14 universities were hit by fines of just £8.1m, it was revealed.

It is thought that growing numbers of institutions deliberately over-recruited last autumn because of concerns over a projected fall in student demand this September when tuition fees rocket to £9,000 a year.

The penalties were imposed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England as part of a controversial system designed to limit the cost to the taxpayer of sending too many young people to university.

Institutions face losing £3,800 for each student recruited beyond strict targets last autumn.

It is feared that the size of penalties could rise to as much as £10,000 per student next year to coincide with a hike in tuition fees.

According to Hefce, universities were fined £20.5m for over-recruiting in the current academic year, with further education colleges being hit by £1.3m worth of penalties.

The largest single fine was imposed on London Metropolitan University, which will be required to repay £5.9m. This was followed by Leeds Met with £3.1m, Plymouth with £1.2m and the University of the West of England with £1m.

Sheffield University – a member of the elite Russell Group – was fined £448,400 while Sussex was hit by a £661,200 penalty.

Universities traditionally make more admissions offers than available places, with an expectation that some students will drop out of the process or choose alternative institutions.

But Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of London Met, told Times Higher Education magazine that more students took up offers last September than in previous years. This follows a record rise in applications last summer as more students sought to win places before the rise in fees.

“The biggest surprise to us in 2011/12 was the very different conversion rate of offers into admissions, and we want to get the best possible hold on that in what clearly is going to be a very turbulent time,” he said.

Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
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