Britain’s best universities ‘failed to fill 11,500 places’

Thousands of student places were left empty at elite Russell Group universities this year because of the Government’s higher education reforms, a vice-chancellor has admitted. This is from the Telegraph…

Britain’s leading institutions started the academic year with around 11,500 vacancies following an overhaul of admissions rules, it emerged.

Prof Sir Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, said the unfilled places were an “unintended consequence” of the changes and warned that the same situation could arise again in 2013.

It has already been revealed that universities across Britain suffered a dip in admissions rates this year.

In September, the Telegraph told how 110 universities or higher education colleges were still advertising vacancies just days before the deadline to start courses.

But Sir Howard’s comments are believed to be the first by a Russell Group vice-chancellor acknowledging the serious problems also faced by some of the country’s most sought-after universities.

The comments come just weeks after England’s Higher Education Funding Council warned that university finances were under pressure after an “unexpected fall” in admissions.

Nationally, numbers were an average of 2.1 per cent lower than universities’ own forecasts, it emerged. Some 57,000 fewer undergraduates started courses across the country this year.

Speaking at the Girls’ Schools Association annual conference in Liverpool, Sir Howard said: “One of the startling unintended consequences is that currently, this year, there are about 11,500 empty places in Russell Group universities.”

This “certainly wasn’t the intention” of the reforms, he said.

He said the “downward pressure on A-level grades meant that there wasn’t as many [students] around to recruit [and] there was some slacking of demand in certain subjects, mainly humanities and social sciences”.

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