At present there is a limit on the total number of students publicly-funded institutions can recruit, but this does not apply to private institutions.
As a result, the number of students at private providers has “risen rapidly” in recent years, says draft guidance on the planned cap published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
The number of students at private providers making use of taxpayer funded loans has risen from 4,300 in 2009-10 and 5,860 in 2010-11 to 9,360 in the first six months of 2011-12.
But from 2014-15, private providers will be brought under student number controls, meaning that they will be competing head to head with public universities for during recruitment.
However, students at private providers will still only be able to take out a £6,000 fee loan from the Student Loans Company, rather than the £9,000 currently permitted at public institutions.
From 2014-15 private providers will also be able to recruit as many high grade students – currently defined as those achieving ABB grades or better at A-level or equivalent – as they wish.
The document, Alternative Higher Education Providers: Student Number Controls, says that the cap for each private provider will be calculated “based on recruitment levels in 2012-13”.
But it recognises that many private providers had “significant plans” to grow which could be stymied by the introduction of student number controls.
It invites those who believe they have an “exceptional case” for a higher number control in 2014-15 to submit evidence that they have made a “significant” financial commitment to take on more students.