Proving popular

April 9, 2004

The analysis of trends in UK student choice ("Students forsake post-92 sector", March 12), should have established that St Andrews University is clearly an admissions winner.

Student numbers at St Andrews are fixed not by trends or by popularity, but by government. The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council sets the maximum number of home and European Union-based students St Andrews is allowed to educate at any one time (presently 4,400). If admissions rise too much one year as a result of more acceptances being received than we had anticipated (bearing in mind that offers of places are legally binding), it follows they must fall the following year to ensure we do not risk the prospect of a Shefc clawback for admitting too many undergraduates. If the purpose of the article was to demonstrate trends in popularity, it cannot meaningfully do this for institutions such as St Andrews by comparing admissions figures year to year.

The problem at St Andrews is not falling student numbers nor a drop in demand. It is how to deal with the disappointment of the many thousands of gifted young people who apply to study here each year and who we must, regrettably, turn away.

Brian Lang
Principal and vice-chancellor
St Andrews University

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