Some universities may close, academics fear

Some universities may close as a result of political and financial change in the sector, suggests a survey of senior university leaders. This is from the BBC…

The study by a management consulting firm predicts further cuts in public funding to universities.

Some 60 senior university leaders from across the UK responded to the survey, around a third of the total.

“It is clear that we are witnessing a sea-change in the dynamics of higher education”, said co-author Mike Boxall.

Declining government grants, limits on undergraduate numbers, higher student fees and cuts to research funding have resulted in a dramatic shift in priorities for university leaders, argues the report by PA Consulting.

The authors detect signs of a switch among university leaders away from “their historical obsession with outlook for government policy and funding”.

Instead the focus is increasingly “the competitive battle for fee-paying students”, with a “new imperative” to offer “attractive and rewarding learning experiences”, including better student access to academic staff.

The report notes that the past year has seen a “marked softening and increased discrimination” in demand for higher education from school-leavers in response to higher fees and patchy graduate employment prospects.

Demographic changes and visa restrictions on international students also limit the pool of would-be students.

Some 58% of the university leaders surveyed said they were worried by falling demand for undergraduate courses from UK and EU-based students.

Some 90% expressed concerns over declining numbers of postgraduate students from the UK and EU, with more than 80% worried by falling international numbers.

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