Proposals to cap the variety of college students going to school are “flawed” and “flip again the clock on social mobility”, vice-chancellors have warned.
In February, the Division for Training launched a session on introducing a system of “scholar quantity controls” for larger schooling establishments in England.
The DfE mentioned it was contemplating a spread of choices, from a “sector-wide cap” setting the variety of college students every college can recruit, to capping numbers on particular programs at completely different establishments.
Underneath the capping possibility, programs deemed by the Authorities to be offering poor worth – as measured by elements corresponding to graduate salaries and job outcomes – could possibly be restricted within the variety of college students they’re allowed to recruit.
The proposal is a part of a wider Authorities drive in opposition to “poor high quality programs”.
Nonetheless, delivering its response to the session, Universities UK – which represents vice-chancellors – mentioned scholar quantity caps would “flip again the clock on social mobility whereas limiting the Authorities’s personal levelling up agenda”.
“UUK strongly opposes the introduction of scholar quantity caps, which might damage these from deprived backgrounds probably the most,” it mentioned.
“In addition to limiting scholar alternative, scholar quantity caps entrench drawback as a result of college students who’re unable to maneuver location to attend college have fewer alternatives to use and be accepted to school, making them extra possible to decide on a path with poorer employment outcomes.”
Mentioning that there are a million extra graduate vacancies than graduates, UUK mentioned that the transfer would even be “counterproductive because the UK seems to upskill and meet the rising want for graduate expertise”.
Professor Steve West, president of UUK and vice-chancellor of UWE Bristol, mentioned: “Universities oppose scholar quantity caps within the strongest potential phrases as a result of they are going to damage deprived college students probably the most.
“We agree with Authorities that geography mustn’t restrict alternative and avoiding scholar quantity caps is important if we’re to achieve creating extra alternatives to upskill for everybody, no matter their background.
“All reforms to larger schooling have to be in the perfect pursuits of scholars in addition to universities, enterprise and society. We stay dedicated to working along with Authorities to make sure future coverage selections cut back inequalities and wholeheartedly help the levelling up agenda.”
In its response to the DfE session, UUK additionally objected to a separate Authorities proposal to introduce minimal entry necessities to qualify for a scholar mortgage. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Research revealed final month urged such a coverage would disproportionately hit poor college students and people from ethnic minorities.
Universities in England had been beforehand topic to scholar quantity caps, however these controls had been lifted in 2015 to encourage establishments to compete to recruit extra college students.
Final month, the previous prime minister Tony Blair mentioned the Authorities ought to set a objective to get seven in 10 individuals taking part in larger schooling.