London Metropolitan University will be fined £5.9 million for oversubscribing student places in 2012.
Malcolm Gillies, Vice Chancellor of the university, insists that a £5.1 million provision was set aside for the fine, but that London Met have still appealed and are citing “substantial mitigation”. It is thought that the best the university can hope for is a reduction of the fine to £4 million.
London Metropolitan University have exceeded its student capacity of 4,900 by 1,550 students. Through the Student Number Control scheme (SNC) controlled by Hefce, England’s higher education funding body, universities in England must pay £3,800 per student recruited in excess of their allowed intake. In 2011, Hefce recorded only 2,150 extra students across the country and charged only £8.5 million with the largest proportion of £2.2 million coming from South Bank University, also in London.
Gillies maintains that London Metropolitan will “take it on the chin” and says that student fees will contribute to the Hefce fine. The net cost of the extra students will therefore cost the institution no more than £700,000. However, the university already owes £25 million for previous and as yet unpaid administration errors regarding student numbers.
Gillies claims that news of the Hefce fine did in no way inspire London Metropolitan University’s planned job cuts that will mean a loss of 200 academic professionals. The proposed job cuts were announced shortly after news of the Hefce fine.
Speaking in defence of the error which occurred in his absence, Gillies says: “Yes, it’s true I was away on my annual leave for a lot of this period, but I take responsibility for this – as I take responsibility for everything I do at London Met.”
The Times Higher Education publication warns that this year in the UK over 25,000 student places may have been over recruited.
An expose printed in October revealed that many universities planned to oversubscribe student places in 2011-12 in order to under-subscribe in 2012-13 and benefit from the increased tuition fees. To target this trend, the government are allowing an increased student capacity in universities which charge less than £7,500 per annum for tuition fees. London Metropolitan University fees fall between £4,500 and £9,000 with the average tuition cost being £6,850 per student, per year.
Gillies says that London Metropolitan and universities across the country have been hit by a “veritable tsunami of late applications as people tried to get in for the last education at a low price”. In fact, higher education fees mean that university applications are down 9.9% in England for 2012.
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of ULU Lecturers Union, says: “Applications in England are down over 50% more than in any other part of the UK as a result of the government making it the most expensive country in the world in which to gain a public degree”.
Regardless, there has been a significant increase in overseas application to universities in England for 2012.
Hefce proposes to charge £10,000 per extra student admitted to university next year.