Laurie Taylor Column

January 31, 2003

The new white paper on higher education announces that an "access regulator" with power to hand out fines will be appointed - THES , January 24.

From: The office of the access regulator

To: The vice-chancellor of the University of Poppleton

My inspectors have completed their rigorous examination of your admissions records. They were "not at all happy" with the results of this analysis, and I am now writing to outline the penalties that they have decided to impose.

The percentage of students from non-traditional backgrounds at your university is currently below government requirements. You must, therefore, immediately (and I did say, immediately) amend your entrance procedures so as to ensure that next year you recruit a further 500 students a year who fall into the "non-traditional" category.

The fine for your failure to meet "non-traditional targets" will be £145,000. Failure to comply with the target given above will lead to a doubling of this sum in the next academic year.

You have also asked my permission to introduce tuition fees above the minimum for 12 of your current academic courses. Your lamentable failure to improve access in the manner required means that no such permission can be given. (Some inspectors were amazed that you had the temerity to ask.)

We have also had occasion to examine your recent dropout rates and found that these are above the national benchmarks devised by my office. This leaves me with no alternative but to impose an additional "excess dropout" fine on your institution of £175,000.

While I am writing, may I also point out that this office did not much like the look of the accounts that you had prepared for our inspection, and I would therefore be grateful if you would promptly arrange to fire your registrar.

In view of all the above, you might like to consider your own position.

Yours sincerely,

The access regulator ("We have ways of making you comply")

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