Recruitment dip may be due to misplaced forms

April 24, 2008

The University of Lincoln mislaid more than 800 student applications, the vice-chancellor suggested in a memo to senior staff.

David Chiddick wrote to heads of departments and his executive team on 9 April explaining that "recruitment seemed to be taking a disproportionate dip" for 2008-09. "We are looking at quite serious underrecruitment to some courses," he said, warning that cost reductions might follow.

He listed eight possible reasons for the drop, including inefficient handling of applications. Noting that 800 submissions were awaiting processing by Lincoln, he added: "As yet it has not been possible to track down where those applications are in the university."

The vice-chancellor also expressed concern that departments had been reducing the length of the teaching year. "It appears that, although we are just into April, teaching in many programmes ... has stopped," he wrote. This was despite examinations being postponed in 2007-08 to allow for more teaching.

Professor Chiddick highlighted lack of support for resit students over the summer and implored staff to ensure that students turned up for retakes. "The university receives grant funding only if they complete (not necessarily pass) the year of study, and this includes turning up for examinations," he wrote.

The memo also questioned whether Lincoln had "set the standard too high" by raising entrance requirements and by rejecting students who would have been accepted in the past. "There is evidence (that) some parts of the university are doing both, and the number of rejects is significantly higher than in previous years," he wrote. "The argument could be made that this will enhance retention, but as yet we have seen no evidence of that."

A university spokeswoman said: "The comment about the pending 800 applications was simply a reflection of the university's continuous improvement of processes and information. In the event, many of these have been late applications or others requiring interview. The university has now processed 95 per cent of its applications, and at this time our firm acceptances are at exactly the same position as last year."

The university was in a good financial position, she added. "Any cost reductions referred to would have been dealt with by holding vacant posts temporarily in areas that had forecast recruitment shortfalls."

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