Students are facing an even bigger squeeze on university places this autumn, it has emerged.
Despite record levels of demand, Times Higher Education has learnt that there could be 3,000 to 4,000 fewer places for full-time undergraduate entrants in 2010-11 than there were in 2009-10.
The situation has arisen because the 10,000 “emergency” places for 2009-10, announced by the Government last summer, have been withdrawn.
According to Million+, which represents new universities, this means that universities will be able to recruit only the same number of students in 2010 as they did in 2008.
Les Ebdon, chair of Million+ and vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, described the move as “completely counter-intuitive”.
“The evidence points to rising demand, but funding for student support, which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills provided to allow 10,000 additional students to be recruited in 2009, has been withdrawn and universities will not have these numbers available for students wishing to start university in 2010.”
He said there could be “no excuse” for the Government limiting opportunities.
“Funding must be provided to ensure that all those who are qualified can find a place at university in 2010,” he urged.
The news came as the National Union of Students launched a campaign to mobilise the student vote for the general election.
It is asking students to use their vote to support candidates who have pledged to oppose any increase in tuition fees in the next parliament.
The NUS has identified a “hotlist” of 20 areas where the student vote could make a decisive difference to the result.
Wes Streeting, president of the NUS, said: “It is clear that a rise in fees would be deeply unpopular across the country. Only 12 per cent of the public think raising fees should even be on the table [according to a YouGov poll]. As no mainstream political party has a clear policy on fees, it is down to individual candidates to take a stand and sign our pledge.”
The NUS has identified Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield as among the key battlegrounds.
Also on its list are: Reading, Cambridge, London, Southampton, Bristol, Leeds, Oxford, Durham, Exeter, Norwich, Brighton, Lancaster, Nottingham, Plymouth and Lincoln.