Universities face fines over extra students admitted

Universities who have broken a government-imposed cap on the number of new students could be fined. Vice-chancellors face being fined for every student admitted over the official limit. However, it is still too early to know how much they might be charged.

Thankfully, University of Lincoln officials say the institution should be in the clear. Professor Scott Davidson, a pro vice-chancellor at the university, says they had complied with the guidelines: “According to the data we have we are well within our student population.”

“It’s always a relief that we’re complying with Hefce (Higher education funding council for England) requirements and standards but we work to plan these things and are very, very careful in the way in which we assess the number of students that we recruit, and how that’s going to impact on our overall population.”

Nationally, 477,277 students began studying for their degrees this autumn, according to Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) figures. This is a rise of almost 6% over last year. 139,520 students did not get a place at university, either by not receiving an offer, failing to get the right grades, or by applying late.

If universities had not broken the cap on student numbers, then thousands more people would not have started at university this year.

Philip Walker, from Hefce, says: “The government want to ensure that universities don’t over-recruit… because if universities do, then there will be a real cost to the treasury and to the taxpayer, and that is something that the government is trying to control at the moment for obvious reasons.”

Mr Walker explained what action would be taken if universities were found to have broken the cap: “If the government does decide that the universities have over recruited, as a whole or individually, they might decide to effectively take money back from universities. This would simply be taking back the money which the government would have to pay for those additional students.”

It is largely expected that most universities will have adhered to the rules, but there will be more information in December.

You can listen more of Philip Walker’s and Scott Davidson’s comments on our weekly podcast.

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