Universities rapidly expanding their postgraduate and part-time student numbers will have to increase their fees if quality is to be maintained, the funding council has warned.
Speaking at last week's annual conference of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, chief executive Graeme Davies said that the universities' own predicted rates of growth for both types of student were far higher than the Government's and that unless fees went up the unit of resource would go down.
Professor Davies said that institutions were under pressure to expand in both areas. "In both cases, the figures suggest that institutions are seeking to compensate for the effects of consolidation and the reduction in their total resources by recruiting higher numbers of part-time and postgraduate students."
John Daniel, vice chancellor of the Open University, said that next academic year the OU would be funded for a growth of 1,000 students, whereas actual growth would be nearer 6,000.
Geoffrey Alderman, head of quality assurance at Middlesex University, which increased its part-timers from 2,300 in 1993/94 to 2,700 this year, said: "It is a fallacy that part-timers cost less than full-timers - keeping libraries open and running courses outside normal working hours is expensive." He said that all universities should consider the resource implications of part-time courses.
A spokesman for Hull University said that the inclusion of continuing education into mainstream funding in 1995/96 would increase Hull's part-time student numbers by 9,000 and have a severe effect on average fee levels.
Bristol University, which increased its postgraduate numbers by 300 this year, said that the university was having to look at other sources of funding, such as its development fund, in order to maintain quality.
Warwick University, which has doubled its number of graduate students since 1991/92, said that it had maintained quality and improved efficiency through its graduate school and through external sources of income.