Thursday, 4 August 2011

Universities predict that student numbers will fall

The Guardian reported yesterday that more than half of England's universities expect to be teaching fewer undergraduates next year, due to the increase in tuition fees.

Following the MP vote to increase tuition fees which took place in December 2010, more than a third of English universities will charge £9,000 as their standard fee.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England, which distributes money to universities on behalf of the government, requested institutions' financial forecasts for the next three years.

The analysis undertaken demonstrates that 56 universities are anticipating a drop in the number of full-time undergraduates they take from the UK or the European Union next year. On average, universities expect a 2% fall.

Just under a quarter – 24% – expect an increase and a fifth anticipate no change.

The report reveals that universities expect the number of students from outside the UK and the EU to rise between 3% and 6%. A dozen universities expect their income from overseas students' fees to go up by more than 100% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2013-14. Of these, three anticipate a more than 200% rise.

But the funding council warns that the sector continues to operate on "very fine margins" which make insitutions vulnerable to "small changes".

It says universities will be in a "financially sustainable position" in the medium term, but some "will need to generate better financial results in the longer term".

The report also warns universities not to rely too heavily on predictions of student demand and says that the main financial strength of the sector "remains in a small number of institutions".

"There is no certainty over the likely level of student numbers in the future," it says. "We are aware that institutions have developed contingency plans to deal with changes in income."

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