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Executive summary


1. This report describes and analyses the responses we received to ‘Student number controls and teaching funding: Consultation on arrangements for 2013-14’ (HEFCE 2012/04) and the decisions subsequently made by our Board. It explains in detail the reasoning behind our proposals, responds to alternative suggestions where they were made and outlines our plans for 2013-14.

Key points

2. The great majority of the responses we received agreed with our proposals. We therefore intend to implement our policies largely as proposed in HEFCE 2012/04. Some alterations have been made because respondents suggested ways in which we might modify certain policies or initiatives.

3. For the remainder of this spending review period (2013 to 2015), our primary objectives for student number controls and teaching funding will be to support higher education (HE) to adjust to the new finance system, and to minimise the introduction of further new methods. This is to limit administrative burden and avoid unnecessary instability in the interest of students and the wider public.

4. We will continue to invest to ensure a high-quality student experience. To achieve this we will focus on government priorities, and on areas where either tuition fees cannot cover costs or it is in the public interest that vulnerable provision receives additional support.


5. We received 176 responses to the consultation, comprising:

  • 105 responses from HE institutions
  • 22 responses from further education colleges
  • five responses from other providers of HE
  • one individual response
  • 43 responses from ‘other’ organisations (representative bodies, mission groups and employer organisations).

6. Most respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the majority of our proposals, although in some areas they requested a clearer explanation. In general respondents did not suggest alternative approaches, but some such suggestions were made. Paragraphs 21 to 229 of this publication analyse the responses, explain the detailed reasoning behind our proposals and respond to alternative suggestions where relevant.

7. With the support of the majority of the HE sector, therefore, we intend to proceed as outlined in the consultation document in the following areas1:

  1. Continuation of the entrant control.
  2. Support for high-cost subjects.
  3. Our transitional approach to support for postgraduate provision.
  4. An approach based on the Transparent Approach to Costing for Teaching to inform the development of the future funding method.
  5. Support for part-time undergraduate provision in high-cost subjects only.
  6. Funding for flexible provision.
  7. Contributions towards the additional operational costs of London-based providers.
  8. Student opportunity.
  9. Strategically important and vulnerable subjects.
  10. Our approach to data reporting and monitoring.

8. In the following areas, we have modified or clarified our approach. This is in response to respondents’ suggestions for modifications which might address inconsistencies or anomalies arising since the first stage of consultation.

Students topping-up to honours degrees

9. We will modify the definitions used in the student number control (SNC), to exclude students who:

  • are topping up from a foundation degree or a Higher National Diploma
  • are joining an honours programme that does not exceed 1.3 years of full-time study (the Quality Assurance Agency foundation degree qualification benchmark), and
  • have been HEFCE-fundable (at any institution) during either of the preceding two academic years. Adjustments to SNC based on changes in average course duration

Average course length

10. We propose to monitor and review the average durations of courses once we have better long-term funding data. We do not envisage making immediate changes. In the longer term, we do not plan to make annual changes to institutions’ SNCs on the basis of small changes in their average course durations, but we reserve the right to make appropriate adjustments where our monitoring indicates that there have been significant changes in course length.

Determining equivalent entry qualifications

11. We will add a small number of qualifications to the list of high-grade equivalences. This will be limited to the following standalone qualifications:

  • the Access to HE Diploma
  • the Cambridge Pre-U (not in combination)
  • the Advanced Diploma
  • the BTEC National in Early Years.

Determining grade combinations

12. We do not intend to expand the high-grade equivalences list to include grade combinations. The inclusion of combinations of any type was not supported by the majority of respondents.

‘Small core’ protection

13. We propose to continue with a minimum protected core of student numbers, to ensure that more selective institutions can continue to admit students on the basis of contextual information, to meet access agreement targets, or to admit students with qualifications or combinations which are not on the high-grade equivalences list.

Language years abroad

14. From 2014-15, if a student is taking a whole year abroad under an exchange programme, we will provide funding of approximately £2,250 to support their institution’s participation in such exchange programmes.

Students on sandwich courses and placements

15. The Government has announced that tuition fees for those taking a sandwich year out from 2014-15 will be capped at 15 per cent of the maximum for a full-time undergraduate. (At 2013-14 prices this would amount to £1,350 or £900, depending on whether an access agreement was in force.) This will ensure consistency in the fee limits for study and work years out, whether in the UK or elsewhere.


16. There continue to be concerns over the potential implications of the SNC policies and their implementation for equality and diversity. We are developing appropriate robust monitoring mechanisms for assessing the impact of the changes on institutions, HE provision in general, student demand, and equality and diversity issues.

Action required

17. This publication is for information.

1 Except where otherwise stated, all proposals in this document should be understood as applying in the academic year 2013-14 and beyond (subject to later modifications).

Date: 31 July 2012

Ref: HEFCE 2012/19

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior Management, Planning, Admissions, Finance

Enquiries should be directed to:

Tracy Allan, tel 0117 931 7234, e-mail