The position of this autumn's university applicants is confused by the legal and political situation on fees
LIMITS on student numbers for 1998 have been set at 738,000 - 6,000 more than the target for 1997 and 7,000 fewer than were actually recruited.
There will also be 10,000 more student places to share out than originally planned because of penalties on institutions which over or under-recruited this year.
Over-recruitment was higher than usual at 15,000 students, compared with about 7,500 last year, and under-recruitment was lower at 6,000, compared with 10,000.
This pushed the total number 9,000 above target compared with 2,000 below target last year.
Institutions which have over-recruited will not be allowed to increase their maximum aggregate student number (MASN) next year, while those which under-recruited will have their MASN cut.
Eighty per cent of the 10,000 extra places will be redistributed through competitive bidding, while the rest will go towards balancing rates of funding per student under the new funding method for teaching.
This new method, which comes into effect next year, means that universities and colleges which under-recruit will no longer be penalised automatically. They will be free to concentrate on recruiting to more expensive courses or on recruiting different kinds of students, such as part-timers or post-graduates, so long as they keep to an average level of funding.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has no longer imposed strict conditions on how many students of certain kinds, in certain subjects, institutions have to find. This will come as a relief to many institutions expecting problems in some areas of recruitment next year as tuition fee charges are introduced.