Facts behind the numbers

January 30, 2014

As any good undergraduate journalism or public relations student knows, there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

The article “Booms and busts follow in the wake of big bang” (23 January) on full-time UK institutional student acceptances used a broad brush in painting a picture of the sector and the performance of individual institutions.

At the University of Bedfordshire, for example, our change in numbers and recruitment patterns in the past two years has been driven by our student number allocation from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which we met (and by the strategic decision to stay within our numbers range, not to exceed it as was the case in 2011-12); that acceptances at partner institutions are no longer counted in our figures (a difference of nearly 500 between 2011 and 2013); and a reduction in the number of NHS and teaching agency commissioning places, driven by government policy not student choice. The bottom line is that we have not under-recruited.

The raw figures on applications and acceptances are misleading. However, I would be the first to recognise that recruitment within our marketised environment brings its own challenges. And if that means that universities need to constantly up their game on the student and academic experience, contact hours, outward mobility, work placements and so on, that is no bad thing. Full and proper competition along those lines was my main objective in calling for the abolition of student number controls in these pages (“Let’s go all the way”, Opinion, 19 September 2013). Following the chancellor’s announcement, I remain confident about my university’s ability – and UK universities in general – to compete and thrive in that landscape, transforming the lives of our students.

Bill Rammell
Vice-chancellor and chief executive
University of Bedfordshire

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