Cumbria faces £1m cut after ignoring rules on recruitment

University appeals to Hefce for leniency in grant allocation. Melanie Newman reports

March 5, 2010

The University of Cumbria may have its grant cut by £1 million for the next academic year after it over-recruited hundreds of students.

Last year the government told all the universities in England not to recruit more students in 2009-10 than they accepted in 2008-09. It warned institutions that they would be fined £3,700 for each student they took on above that threshold.

Despite the warnings, Cumbria recruited 4 more students, meaning its grant for next year could be docked by £1.01 million. The fine would add to the financial woes of the university, which is already battling a £20 million deficit.

Cumbria has asked the Higher Education Funding Council for England to base its contract for next year on 2009-10 student recruitment figures, rather than those of the previous year. Hefce will make a decision on the university’s contract in a month.

However, if the funding council is lenient with Cumbria it is likely to face accusations of unfairness from other universities facing large fines for over-recruitment, such as the University of Greenwich and Thames Valley University.

Hefce has estimated that total fines for institutions across the sector could reach £10 million.

On 2 March, Cumbria’s vice-chancellor, Peter McCaffery, asked David Lammy, the Higher Education Minister, to help secure the university’s future. Following a meeting in London, a university spokeswoman said: “The minister understands the university’s position in its discussions with Hefce and the need to resolve this in order to agree future higher education recruitment in Cumbria and associated income to the university.”

In January, Professor McCaffery announced plans to bid for £25 million from the funding council’s strategic development fund to help put the institution on a more sustainable footing. However, the spokeswoman said the university had not yet submitted a bid.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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