Brighton and Teesside universities are the biggest winners in the latest round of additional student numbers awarded to institutions by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, writes Anthea Lipsett.
Brighton and Teesside will boost their undergraduate intakes by more than 1,000 over the next two years, the funding council announced this week.
New universities and colleges make up two thirds of the 20 institutions awarded more than 500 extra student places.
Hefce has allocated 30,000 new student places for 2006-07 and 2007-08 - divided between "managed" and "strategic" growth as part of a revamp of the way the council allocates extra places.
"Managed growth" numbers have been allocated regionally, negotiated with the funding council's regional consultants over the summer. "Strategic growth" numbers are based on the money institutions have bid or are bidding for from strategic projects supported through the council's Strategic Development Fund.
The council prioritises two areas in the bidding process for both strategic and managed growth - widening access for unrepresented groups in higher education and boosting numbers in the Government's list of strategic and vulnerable subjects.
While totals for subject areas were unavailable from the council, a spokesperson said science, technology, engineering and medicine, languages, and area and land-based studies would benefit.
Previously, extra student numbers were allocated after a national competition.
Brighton fared best in the strategic allocations, with 958 extra student numbers; the University of Arts, London received an extra 700. Some 3,500 strategic growth places are still to be allocated by the council.
As for the negotiated, or managed, numbers, the University of the West of England came top in the country with 639 extra places.
A spokesperson for Brighton, said: "Brighton operates a lifelong learning network across Sussex that supports vocational and workplace learning and progression into higher education. It is one of only two funded by Hefce.
It is very important to offer new routes into higher education, and we are leading the way on this new type of initiative."
Some 625 of Brighton's extra student numbers will go towards this and towards a mixture of foundation and masters degrees for this initiative; 333 are for University College Hastings, which is managed by Brighton but offers a portfolio of courses from a number of universities in the area.
Graham Henderson,JTeesside's vice-chancellor, said the allocation reflected the university's success in responding to changing student demand and regional needs. The extra places will go towards foundation degrees involving work experience.
The funding council has also held back up to 2,000 places for what it calls "structural alignment". These will be deployed, for instance, to help transfer students to a new university in cases where courses close or institutions merge.
John Rushforth, Hefce's director of widening participation, said: "We have rejigged the process to reduce the burden on institutions and to make the distribution of additional student places more targeted. We wanted to make the allocations more strategic."