Meeting recruitment targets

February 3, 1995

Peter Knight, who rose to fame as the enfant terrible for over-recruiting and lowering the unit of resource, now wants a standard unit of funding. Not surprisingly he gets support from Luton University.

The Government, in its 1992 public spending announcement, could not have made the position on the restraint on student numbers clearer. As I remember, Luton University grew by more than 2,800, mostly through over-recruitment, during the clearing period in 1993 and now Mr D T Johns wants to be rewarded for it. Whether it was an act of deliberate defiance of Government policy or an act of gross managerial incompetence, there is no obvious reason why others should pay for it.

An alternative approach is to move student numbers away from those who acted in an uncontrolled manner, rather than move money towards them. There could be a number of advantages and options.

* It would restore some credibility to the Higher Education Funding Council in setting targets.

* The Government has announced in its 1994 PES statement that it intends to reduce student numbers in higher education in 1995 by 2,000 and in 1996 by 7,000. This reduction could be borne entirely by those institutions which over-recruited irresponsibly in 1993. Reducing their student numbers would raise their Average Unit of Central Funding and allow those who acted responsibly to continue without adjustment.

* Redistributing students to institutions which acted within guidelines would enable them to develop their academic programmes which they had to postpone.

* The funds thus released could be used to forward Government policy by increasing the number of part-time students.

* A mid-way approach would be to remove student numbers, and only half the funding associated with them. This would raise the unit of resource for those who complain that, because of their own actions, they have had very low AUCF and the funds could be put to the above purposes or some special initiative of the HEFCE.

TERENCE BURLIN Rector, University of Westminster

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