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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This letter invites proposals from English higher education institutions (HEIs) and further education colleges (FECs) with over 100 directly funded full-time equivalent (FTE) students for additional student numbers (ASNs) for academic year 2010-11 against the key criteria set out in paragraph 7. The deadline for proposals is Monday 26 October 2009.

Background

2.   As outlined in 'Allocation of funds for additional student numbers in 2009-10 and 2010-11' (HEFCE Circular letter 05/2008), we reviewed our process for distributing ASNs in 2008 and agreed to allocate these in future through the established processes of the Strategic Development Fund (SDF). This process applied both to ASNs allocated in conjunction with SDF projects and to ASN-only cases. This followed the Council's long-standing approach of allocating growth alongside SDF projects to achieve sustainable development. It also reflected our desire to allocate the increasingly fewer ASNs available to us in a flexible and relatively low-burden way. Circular letter 05/2008 also set out the priorities for allocation of the ASNs then available to the Council for 2009-10 and 2010-11.

3.   Following a letter from the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills of 29 October 2008 asking us to allocate no more than 10,000 ASNs, we explained in 'Higher education finances for 2009-10 and 2010-11' (HEFCE Circular letter 32/2008) that we were making no further allocations of ASNs for 2009-10, beyond those that were already approved or under consideration, because the government target had already been reached. In addition, we said we were making no further allocations of ASNs for 2010-11 at that point.

4.   The Secretary of State then wrote to us in May this year setting out the consequences of the Budget for higher education, and authorising us to allocate 10,000 ASNs for 2010-11.

5.   We wrote to institutions in August ('Allocation of additional student numbers 2010-11', EP 06/2009) to alert you that we would need to move rapidly following our Board meeting in September to allocate the ASNs now made available by the Government, including asking for proposals in a compressed period.

Strategic priorities

6.   We had already allocated 4,002 ASNs for 2010-11 following Circular letter 05/2008, and our Board met this September to agree the distribution of the remaining 5,998. The Board approved 3,498 ASNs for projects previously funded through our SDF to support their sustainability. Our institutional teams are in the process of informing the lead HEIs for these SDF projects of these decisions. The Board also agreed to set aside 500 ASNs for emergency priorities. Our Board agreed that we should allocate the remaining 2,000 ASNs through this call for proposals.

7.   Paragraph 4 of Circular letter 05/2008 outlined key priority areas for the allocation of ASNs. In the light of the limited number of ASNs available for 2010-11, and taking account of the Government’s guidance to us to focus on national priorities, the Board agreed to prioritise two of these key areas: strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS), and health. Proposals for ASNs that do not meet these two key criteria will not be considered. For this call, these key criteria cover only:

  1. SIVS – We will focus on the areas identified as vulnerable in the report of the Advisory Group chaired by Professor Sir Brian Follett, which we published and communicated to the Secretary of State in October 2008 ('Strategically important and vulnerable subjects: Final report of the 2008 advisory group', HEFCE 2008/38). This means that we will particularly focus on: chemistry, physics, mathematics and engineering; modern languages and related area studies; and quantitative social science. Further guidance on the requirements for meeting this key criterion is at Annex A.
  2. Health – The Department of Health has asked us to accommodate the following growth priorities for healthcare-related higher education provision, which are intended to address skills shortages throughout the NHS and social care, and support strategies for workforce modernisation: healthcare science, post-qualification training in social work and paramedic science. Proposals for growth in these areas will need to demonstrate evidence of support through letters from partner Strategic Health Authorities, NHS Trusts and relevant employers. Further guidance on the requirements for meeting this key criterion is in Appendix 2.

Process

8.   A template is attached at Annex A for the submission of proposals. Proposals should be strategic and coherent, focused on a specific area of provision related to one or more of the key criteria, rather than comprising an amalgamation of requests for small numbers distributed across a range of subjects, modes or courses.

9.   HEFCE-funded HEIs and FECs with over 100 directly funded FTEs will be eligible to submit proposals. Indirectly funded FECs and those with fewer than 100 directly funded FTEs are asked to consider growth through Lifelong Learning Network (LLN) partnerships.

10.   We will not consider proposals for ASNs as part of SDF proposals in this exercise, nor are we making available employer engagement co-funded numbers.

11.   In assessing proposals and allocating ASNs through our established SDF processes, we will take into account the following cross-cutting themes (reflected in the template at Annex A):

  1. Ability of the proposal to contribute to the delivery of the Council’s strategic plan in the areas of:
    • widening access to higher education
    • supporting progression into higher education from vocational programmes, including through foundation degrees
    • mitigating impacts of the equivalent or lower qualifications policy.
  2. Ability of the proposal to deliver value for money:
    • taking into account (in the light of the great scarcity of ASNs and overall aspirations in the sector to grow) the willingness of HEIs themselves to demonstrate their high priority for a proposal by committing their own numbers, and hence sharing risk
    • previous recruitment track record.

12.   Recognising that there is likely to be considerable demand for the 2,000 ASNs, we are limiting the numbers that may be sought to 100 ASNs per proposal. In line with our usual policies, we want to accommodate approaches from partnerships, including LLNs, so we are not limiting HEIs to appearing in only one proposal. However, our template asks for a breakdown from proposals from partnerships of the distribution of ASNs across partner institutions. In making final decisions, we will review our allocation of ASNs across HEIs over this Spending Review period, and may take past distributions into account in making allocations to proposals in this call, in order to achieve our overall strategic goals. We will also seek to ensure in our final decisions that we have substantially addressed both our two high-level priorities of health and SIVS.

13.   Institutions may choose to spread their allocation over a three-year period; for example an allocation of 90 ASNs might be split so that the institution aims to recruit 30 additional students for 2010-11, another 30 for 2011-12 and a final 30 in 2012-13. The total for all years will be allocated entirely from the 2,000 ASNs available for 2010-11.

14.   Institutions should seek advice on this letter and discuss their developing ideas for proposals with their institutional team contacts. However, to ensure we process proposals effectively in a compressed period, we require institutions to submit proposals on the template at Annex A, including completing the appended spreadsheet and taking into account guidance notes, by e-mail by Monday 26 October 2009 to the following person for their area:

Only proposals submitted in this way will be assessed.

15.   You will receive an electronic receipt shortly after submitting the proposal. We will not be able to consider proposals submitted after 26 October 2009.

Decisions

16.   We aim to complete the assessment and approve allocations by the end of 2009. Our institutional teams will contact lead HEIs submitting proposals to give feedback on decisions and then provide a formal grant letter. Allocations made through this call will be reflected in July 2010 grant tables.

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive

Date: 30 September 2009

Ref: Circular letter 22/2009

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Enquiries should be directed to:

Midlands and South, Tracy Allan, t.allan@hefce.ac.uk

London and East, Sophie Melton-Bradley,  s.melton-bradley@hefce.ac.uk

North, Elisabeth Edwards,  e.edwards@hefce.ac.uk