|Volume 50 Number 32, August 22, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS) have signed a joint letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warning that the lifting of the cap on university places will "remove one of the only interventions that the government has made to help mitigate the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis on universities".
In the context of universities demanding significant financial support from the government to meet any increase in student intake, the joint letter said: "While it is still unclear exactly what the distribution of domestic students across higher education will be, it is widely anticipated that institutions will move as much as possible to honour their offers. This will likely lead to expanded recruitment at high-tariff institutions at the expense of lower-tariff universities, shifting the financial pain from the Covid-19 crisis onto many of the institutions that play a vital role in widening participation and social mobility."
The letter continues: "The role of universities in training the medical workforce is essential for all regions and nations of the UK, as clearly shown by our members' response to the Covid-19 pandemic."
Universities UK, the representative organisation of the 137 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and the north of Ireland, has warned in this connection that medical schools may now have to turn prospective students away amid a surge in numbers with the grades to get in. Places on medical courses have been capped on grounds of cost and the impact on the NHS of accommodating trainees.
In a letter to the Education Secretary from Universities UK, seen by the PA news agency, vice-chancellors said institutions who were missing out on expected students would now need help "to stabilise their finances" in light of the U-turn.
"The move to using centre-assessed grades will rightly address the inequalities suffered by many students from disadvantaged backgrounds by use of the original algorithm," they said. "However, it will also result in significant overall grade inflation leading to significant decreases in planned enrolments at a number of institutions as students opt for higher tariff courses. Such institutions whose financial plans were based on the agreed temporary student number controls will now require additional government financial support."
(sources: The Independent, Universities UK)