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Vice Chancellor Predicts Summer of Discontent and Autumn of Agony for Tens of Thousands of Would-be Students

The government must lift restrictions on the numbers of students universities can admit this year to avoid a “summer of discontent” and “autumn of agony”, an economist and vice chancellor has warned.

Professor David Green, Vice Chancellor of the country’s fastest growing university, Worcester, said the government had refused to increase the number of places on offer this year, despite record applications.

He said the 10,000 funded places introduced last year had been removed and nursing places have been reduced by 2,000 at English universities – a 15% reduction this autumn. Furthermore, the Government has announced it will be keeping the ‘control number’ system, whereby universities are fined for recruiting extra students.

Professor Green, who was the first to predict last year’s acute, record-breaking shortage of student places, said: “This summer will see record numbers of applicants trying to gain a place at university. However, the introduction of much higher fees in 2012 will mean that the unsuccessful candidates will face an autumn of agony as they decide on whether or not to reapply and take on substantially more debt than those successful for the same courses at the same universities this year.”

Professor Green said those unsuccessful candidates would face further difficulties if they chose to apply next year, when a further 20,000 places are to be withdrawn ‘pro rata’ from every university in England, without exception, and transferred to Further Education colleges, new private charitable and for-profit providers. Only a small number (currently 13) of universities, whose average fee after fee waiver is below £7,500, will be able to compete for these places and save them for university education.

Professor Green points out that the only such university in the whole of the West and South West of England which currently qualifies for this competition is Worcester and that there is not a single university eligible to compete for these extra places in Yorkshire and the North East of England and only one in the North West.

“There will also be a loss of science places, just at a time when we desperately need more scientists in the country,” Professor Green said. “When universities make their 8% cuts, some will be science places. However, when these places are redistributed they will not be available for science as the government won’t pay the extra £1,500 towards the extra costs per place.”

“The country cannot afford to shut out tens of thousands of young people from opportunity.” Professor Green added. “It represents a completely unnecessary waste of human and economic potential as yet again thousands of well qualified people with the ability to benefit from higher education are condemned to the dole queue.”

Professor Green said to free up more places and allow those universities willing to create more opportunities for prospective students, the Government should let institutions take in more students without penalty this year but for no extra grant money.

“That is the kind of cost-effective, practical action ministers should be taking if they are serious about getting the economy growing, improving social mobility and creating the highly skilled workforce on whom the country’s future depends. Let Universities do our job instead of fining us and cutting the flow of the skilled graduates on whom the country’s future depends.” he said.