Changes to the system and the raise in tuition fees have affected students and universities across the UK. On one hand, prospective learners expect a great ‘student experience’ alongside a well-established and results focused course. Universities, on the other, aim tocarefully fill their places whilst maximizing revenue. For the most part, there is a fine balance for students and institutions to find – and competition is tough.
Tuition fees are one of the most infamous of changes to happen in higher education in recent years, but there are additional factors in recruitment, such as the government-introduced cap on places, which have not been as widely reported. This ‘cap’ alone meant that near 1000 spots at Leeds Met are no longer available. However, this rule has a couple of exceptions: all universities have unlimited intake for international students, and those achieving AAB+ at A-Level. For me, this absurd notion renders institutions to scramble for the crème de la crème, whilst becoming an additional roadblock to social mobility. The UK has a longstanding reputation of its high caliber universities – a reason for our proportionately high rate of overseas students choosing to study on British campuses. Naturally, universities want to capitalise on prospective internationals largely due to their heftier fee rates, but the long-term impact of these regulations for our society have yet to materialise. I would argue that it would reduce numbers in professional or skilled careers; ultimately damaging the economy and so far as to say reducing the quality of many lives here in the UK.
Undoubtedly, higher education is a competitive market. As TheMet Online Editor, it has become increasingly speculative that Leeds Metropolitan University has struggled to attract and reach its recruitment targets, with some 400 places said to be as-yet unfilled. Potentially this equates to a £3.6m deficit, an unwelcome blow particularly during economic downturn and uncertainty. Used by many institutions, UCAS’ ‘Clearing’ provides a system for budding students to browse for undersubscribed degree places – an asset currently being employed by Leeds Met, to put it another way, get bums on seats. Likely to be attributed to the rise in tuition fees, student applications were down 48,000 from last year, according to a UCAS report. Leeds Met has yet to announce details of its student intake for 2013 although it is suggestive to me that the university is losing out to its competitors throughout the country.This could be linked to the rise in tuition fees. Leeds Met has yet to announce details of its student intake for 2013. It is suggestive that the university is losing out to its competitors throughout the country.
The results published from the National Student Survey provided a positive outlook for Leeds Metropolitan, with its best ever results. Achieving 17 out of 23 questions above the sector average, Professor Sally Glen, Deputy Vice Chancellor Student Experience, said: “student success and achievement is at the centre of all we do and we are committed to delivering a high quality student experience here at Leeds Metropolitan. We are delighted that our students are seeing significant improvements in the student experience across our university and we will continue to work with students themselves and other key partners to further improve our results.”
Many courses achieved an impressive 100% on question 22 which indicated students’ overall satisfaction that included Art, Physiotherapy, English and History in the top ranking. The Students’ Union scored a satisfaction rating of 3.8 out of 5, five percent above
the average for English institutions. In his usual jovial and signature expressive style, Student Union President, Dave Alcorn, told The Met Online, “We are very pleased with the high result of student satisfaction in regards to their Students’ Union. It shows the success and dedication of its staff towards making student lives better. Onwards and upwards!”
The statistics are publicly available and are frequently used by students to compare their potential choice of higher education. Last week The Telegraph published an article outlining Leeds Met’s decision to slash entry requirements for 97 courses to just 80 UCAS points – the equivalent of two grade E’s at A-Level, the lowest grade available. Previously, standard offers were made to those who achieved two B’s and a C. Both offers are in stark contrast to the unlimited intake of highly coveted AAB students. Which courses saw their requirements become deduced to near worthlessness? Law, architecture and English and History, were amongst those affected. No official response from the University has been made on the articles claims.
The Government’s Treasury further complicates the matter as they seek to make gains from the decline in student applications made this year. Initially paradoxically looking, in a time of economic downturn the government is squeezing and areas that show signs of weakness are reviewed. What does this mean? The Treasury at huge cost underwrites student tuition and maintenance loans, and as such the fewer students there are, the less money is expended. It is feared that the government may view the drop in applications as an opportunity to restrict further the number of admissions an institution can offer, exacerbating the challenge to universities.
Undoubtedly, all Universities throughout the UK have to rethink their recruitment strategy as students (generally) face tougher competition to attend high-ranking establishments. The ‘student experience’ is becoming an increasing popular term and a key indicator for prospective learners. Recruitment in the mean time becomes a delicate juggle of balancing the cost sheet whilst trying to maneuver up the university rankings table. With students expecting more for their money and the government demanding more with less, the future of the UK’s highly regarded University system seems evermore uncertain.