Highly provisional provision

Post available under a CC-BY license, representing my own opinions only. Written at the suggestion of Mark Leach at Wonkhe.com

Reading the HEFCE grant tables for 2012/2013 is like reading the racing form guide at the back of the Daily Mail. You know that most of what you are seeing is based entirely on extrapolation and guesswork, and you feel fairly dirty and ashamed whilst doing so. As HEFCE themselves say:

The allocations announced in this document are highly provisional: in particular, most of the recurrent teaching grant allocations will be recalculated as we receive more up-to-date student number information for 2012-13.” (para 26)

The new regime payments are sketchiest, as HEFCE have needed to extrapolate (from 2011-12 numbers and projections), the price per students for funding groups A&B (the only ones attracting direct HEFCE payment under the new model). The rates per student are £9,804 for price group A and £1,483 for price group B.(para 39) These numbers themselves are calculated so that overall HE spending falls within the general need to restrict overall student funding, via student number controls.

After a general overall control of undergraduate numbers, there is additional mucking about at the edges via the exclusion of all students with above AAB at ‘A’-level, and those studying Medicine or Dentistry as a first degree from this overall control. Institutions can compete to recruit as many students with AAB+ as they like. Further complicating matters, the “margin” places (that we talked about in an earlier post) are sliced from the general overall control and are then completable for.

So poor old HEFCE (and I do feel for them, the financial modelling staff who had to do this are second-to-none in terms of their integrity and capabilities) have had to extrapolate, institution by institution, the following numbers:

  • An expected number of AAB students that each institution will recruit.
  • An expected number of non-AAB (non-medicine, non-dentistry) students each institution will recruit.

And has added to this

  • The number of marginal places each institution has successfully bid for.

To put together an “implied” number of students per institution. 

For those of you who don’t live and breathe this stuff, in the bad old days HEFCE just told institutions how many students they could recruit, and how much money they could expect for doing so.

These implied totals (one of the strangest sets of data ever to come out of HEFCE) are there in table 4 in the grants table spreadsheet (Annex B). Apparently (and there really is no better word than apparently here), the big dips (by headcount) in student population will be at:

Manchester Metropolitan University 

University of Plymouth 

University of Central Lancashire 

Leeds Metropolitan University 

Sheffield Hallam University 

Liverpool John Moores University 

University of the West of England, Bristol 

Kingston University 

University of East London 

Middlesex University 

And the big rises will be at:

Institute of Education 

Anglia Ruskin University 

University of Worcester 

York St John University 

University of Durham 

University of Gloucestershire 

University of Bristol 

Staffordshire University 

Aston University 

University of Cambridge 

University of Oxford 

Why? A mixture of the effects of the allocated marginal places (notably those institutions subject to big dips in recruitment have not been successful in getting marginal places) and the inferred additional recruitment of AAB+ students.

This latter is simply based on the current number of AAB+ students at each institution, plus an extra 4,000 places applied pro-rata based on the each institutions current AAB numbers as a function of the total AAB population. 

Cynically, one could argue that this modelling is predicated on the “free market” in AAB+ students having no effect on applications whatsoever, other than magicing up 4,000 extra highly qualified applicants. I’m not levelling this as a criticism (as clearly they need *some* numbers) just as a passing note regarding how unpredictable and convoluted this new funding model actually is. Whereas the figures in Table 4 may suggest that 335 less freshers will be eating pasties at the University of Leeds, and 248 less freshers will be eating pasties at the University of Liverpool, the reality is that no-one has any idea at all what will happen in the late summer of 2012.

Which, given that HEFCE are also charged with controlling student numbers overall, is a recipe for utter chaos come admissions time.


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