Willis challenges Mandelson over student places funding squeeze

The Telegraph reports:

Students are facing a desperate scramble to get into university amid warnings of a further squeeze on places. … On Wednesday night, Phil Willis, the committee’s Liberal Democrat chairman, wrote to Lord Mandelson to ask how he would meet the huge demand for higher education triggered by the recession. It represents Lord Mandelson’s first test since taking over the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the Cabinet reshuffle.

Student leaders have already warned of looming chaos as thousands of teenagers leave school and college without university places or employment. By April this year, almost 525,000 people had applied to start full-time undergraduate courses, compared with 480,000 a year earlier. More are expected to apply by the end of June deadline. But as the economic downturn put a squeeze on public finance, ministers announced only 10,000 additional places would be funded. Analysts predicted the settlement would leave at least 30,000 students without places. …

In his letter to Lord Mandelson, Mr Willis said: “It appears that the 10,000 extra places… has translated into only an additional 3,000 vacancies for full-time undergraduates. Three thousand places is approximately the equivalent of an increase of about one per cent but we gather that demand for places in England is running at 9.7 per cent higher than at this point last year.”

The remaining 7,000 places are believed to be turned over to postgraduates and part-time students, while some money will be spent by universities who recruited too many undergraduates last year.

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2 Comments

  • Meanwhile, Vince Cable is on record as saying that the Liberal Democrats would cut student numbers to fund ‘free education’ for a small elite. In that context the limit on additional student numbers wouldn’t appear to be too controversial as far as Lib Dem MPs are concerned…

  • I agree with Johnny: Phil appears to be saying something sensible, and flatly contradicting the party’s completely illiberal line that the state should decide how many students are allowed to go to univ.

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