Huge growth in public funding at private colleges

The number of students at private colleges accessing public tuition fee loans more than trebled in just two years, a study says.

August 7, 2014

Some 21,500 extra students at alternative providers of higher education obtained a tuition fee loan in 2012-13 compared to 2010-11, according to a Universities UK report on undergraduate recruitment trends published today.

That equated to a 259 per cent rise over the two years, outstripping the 8 per cent growth in loans issued by the Student Loan Company to students at public universities over the same period, the report says.

In financial terms, an extra £220 million was spent on loan support for students at alternative providers in 2012-13 compared to 2010-11, a 445 per cent increase, it adds.

Alongside the extra £183 million of support for higher education students at further education colleges since 2010-11, this represents about 3 per cent of the entire student support budget in 2012-13.

But those sums represent 9.3 per cent of the extra student support issued by the SLC over the two year period.

The report, titled The Funding Environment for Universities 2014, notes that spending on loans for students at alternative providers is expected to reach £900 million in 2014-15.

That would represent about 10 per cent of the total loans and grants distributed to higher education students in 2012-13, which totalled £9.5 billion that year.

This includes loans for tuition fees (£4.3 billion), loans for maintenance (£3.5 billion) and means-tested grants (£1.7 billion), of which 92.2 per cent went to students attending public universities.

The Universities UK report also details the continuing falls in part-time undergraduate students, whose entrant numbers almost halved between 2010-11 and 2013-14.

Over the same period, full-time undergraduate entrant numbers fell by just 4 per cent, which meant the overall number of full-time and part-time UK and EU domiciled entrants was down by 21.7 per cent over those three years.

The report also notes that the decline in the UK’s young population, which is projected to decrease by 12.3 per cent between 2012 and 2021, may affect recruitment in future.

Changes to policy related to level 3 qualifications, such as A-level reforms and the introduction of new vocational qualifications, along with the slow recovery of demand from students in the EU, are also identified as ongoing challenges for institutions in the recruitment of young undergraduates.

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