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Executive summary


1.    This document sets out the HEFCE Board’s decisions, following consultation, on the setting of student number control limits for 2012-13. Specifically, it deals with the implementation of the Government's policies that:

  1. Students with entry qualifications equivalent to, or higher than, grades AAB at A level, (‘AAB+ equivalent students’), should no longer be included in the student number control population.
  2. A 'margin' of up to 20,000 places should be created by reducing the 'core' residual student number control population (that is, those remaining after removing AAB+ equivalent students). These places should be redistributed only to those institutions charging an average annual net tuition fee of £7,500 or less and meeting other criteria.

2.    This document also:

  1. Invites eligible institutions to bid for places made available from the margin of up to 20,000 places and provides guidance on the bidding process.
  2. Invites specialist institutions in the creative and performing arts, which recruit mainly on the basis of audition or portfolio, rather than entry qualifications, to submit an evidence statement to HEFCE for consideration if they wish to opt out of both the AAB+ and core/margin arrangements for 2012-13.
  3. Indicates that an appeals process will be in operation in relation to student number control limits for 2012-13.

Key points

3.    HEFCE will set student number control limits for each higher education institution (HEI) and further education college (FEC) for 2012-13. This is an entry control, not a whole number control.

4.    The HEFCE Board has now considered the responses that we received to the consultation on implementing the changes to the setting of student number controls that were proposed in the Government's White Paper, 'Students at the Heart of the System' . It has agreed that we should implement the proposals on student number controls, with the following modifications:

  1. Students entering with the International Baccalaureate should be treated as within the AAB+ equivalent population only if they have 35 points or more.
  2. Institutions specialising in the performing and creative arts that recruit primarily on the basis of audition or portfolio may submit an evidence statement to HEFCE for consideration if they wish to opt out of both the AAB+ and core/margin processes.
  3. We will exclude numbers associated with currently identified strategically important and vulnerable subjects (SIVS) from the calculation to create the margin, on condition that institutions at least maintain their entrant levels to SIVS courses.
  4. No institution will be automatically exempt from the calculation to create the margin but some may be exempted under b above. However, in calculating it, we will disregard the first 50 student places in the residual population to which the calculation applies (that is, those remaining after the AAB+ equivalent population has been removed and which are not attributable to SIVS courses).
  5. In implementing the AAB+ policy, institutions will retain a student number limit equal to at least 20 per cent of their limit for 2011-12: this should be sufficient to ensure that the residual limits for all institutions, after removal of AAB+ equivalent student places, will be sufficient to allow them to give fair access to students entering with EU qualifications and to meet the requirements of their access agreements with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA).
  6. We are bringing forward our timescale so that we can confirm student number control limits in February 2012.

5.    Bids for places from the margin are invited from all publicly funded HEIs or FECs (including those we do not currently fund directly) that commit to charging an average full-time undergraduate fee, after tuition fee waivers, under the new regulated fee regime from September 2012, of no more than £7,500 net. We are unable to consider applications for 2012-13 from other organisations, including any private providers as we are not entitled to fund them.

Action required

6.    Responses are invited by Friday 11 November 2011, from institutions that:

  • are eligible and wish to bid for a share of up to 20,000 places to be included within their student number control limit for 2012-13, or
  • specialise in the performing or creative arts and recruit predominantly on the basis of audition or portfolio, to submit an evidence statement to HEFCE for consideration if they wish to opt out of both the AAB+ and core/margin elements of the student number control process.

7.    Bids for the margin should be made electronically using the template at Annex B and the spreadsheet at Annex C. Both annexes include detailed guidance.

8.    Any questions about this document should be directed to HEFCE institutional teams (searchable list of contact details). Further information will also be available shortly in a set of frequently asked questions alongside this publication.

9.    OFFA has confirmed that institutions may apply to revise their existing access agreement, or for a new agreement if they do not currently have one. OFFA may require submissions of revised or new agreements as early as 4 November 2011 (this timetable is subject to confirmation by OFFA).

Date: 3 October 2011

Ref: HEFCE 2011/30

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Heads of further education colleges not directly funded by HEFCE

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Planning, Finance, Student recruitment