Student number controls - Issue of the week - 26th November, 2012

Uncapping recruitment on AAB students does not go far enough, warns sector leaders in The Telegraph.

As the 1994 Group has argued, restricting recruitment flexibility to such a small cohort does little to widen opportunity to talented students from diverse backgrounds. The 1994 Group believes that the Government needs to rapidly expand the proposals if it wants to see real competition and choice for students. This is why the 1994 Group calls on the Government to not just make good on its pledge to uncap recruitment on ABB students next year, but to phase out number restrictions entirely over the next few years.

Read our full response to the Milburn Report, and our response to the White Paper (Sept. 2011) calling for the scrapping of student number controls.

Predictability of the cost to the taxpayer

David Willetts, and in particular the Treasury, are eagerly awaiting next month's data for 2012 student entry to universities and student loan take-up. This will show how many students are going to university under the new system—and therefore liability to the Treasury.

In amongst all the data there is one key piece of information I will be looking for, that is whether a higher proportion of students with grades equivalent to AAB—such as those students with BTECs—are now going to university.

In all the arguments about deregulating the student number controls system—moving from AAB to ABB and beyond—the key question for the Treasury has been the predictability of the size of the cohort and therefore the cost to the taxpayer. With over 90% of students with high A-levels going to university the area of uncertainty comes from those students with equivalent quali cations. These students are currently less likely to go to university, I have heard the figure 70% quoted for AAB equivalent BTECs. The progression rates are likely to be even lower for other quali cations that would be included as part of any further liberalisation.

However, if universities have been targeting these students and the proportion signi cantly increases this will be an area of concern to the Treasury that they can't predict the costs. This question of uncertainty of behaviour will be key if we are to prevent the Government reversing its decision to reduce the threshold to ABB and indeed from its plans to liberalise number controls "year on year" as the Government's White Paper argued.

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