Could changes in university funding limit student places?

Universities will have to offer fewer places if cuts in tuition fees are not replaced by government money, say leading research universities. A funding review of post 18 study is expected to be published next month. The BBC reports.

The Russell Group, and seven charities, want ministers to rule out an overall drop in funding. The government says job prospects and drop out rates are as important as fair access.

An independent panel, led by Philip Augar, has been asked to look at whether the current system offers value for money for students and taxpayers in England. Tuition fees are now the main source of funding for universities.

Colin Bailey, the Principal of Queen Mary University in London, says they break even overall on the cost of teaching home students under the current system, but if tuition fees were reduced that would change.

“We would have to reduce our places, because there are only so many courses you can run at a loss.”

Universities already receive top up cash from the government for courses that are very expensive to teach, such as engineering and medicine.

In a statement backed by seven charities that help low income students into university, the Russell Group says a reduction in places could lead to fewer students from poorer backgrounds getting places.

Anand Shukla is the chief executive of Brightside, one of the charities that has also signed the statement. “We are concerned that if a cut to tuition fees leads to an overall cut in university funding, then efforts to improve social mobility will go into reverse. “

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said: “A small cut in tuition fees with no replacement in funding would be the worst of all worlds.”

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