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Universities cramming as they top up student numbers

by onkar


Peter Scott could have gone further in his comparison of Cambridge over Coketown (Education, 1 September) by retailing what is now happening in what has been called “the great university scramble” for clearing.

As I write in my new book, Deceiving a Generation (forthcoming from Radical Read next month), “all but two universities are in a frantic competition to cram in as many students as possible since their funding depends upon it! In other words, to poach applicants from one another, creaming off those who thought they were heading for more ‘middling’ universities but can now use the post-results ‘clearing’ to trade up – ‘trade down’ from the universities’ point of view!”

This is having the effect, as Alison Wolf points out in her report on further and higher education funding, of universities “colonising areas of vocational education and training which were traditionally the preserve of … vocational schools or colleges”. In other words, large parts of higher education are turning into further education while FE itself is being closed down or virtualised.

As to those universities in the middle, which think they are Russells or can become so, most are going down market. This is confirmed by the fact that last year only two universities did not go into clearing – Oxford and LSE.

Still, the great scramble to cram them all in shows very clearly that neither parents nor their children are fooled by the false prospectus of “apprenticeships” and know that even a degree from Coketown is preferable to no degree.
Patrick Ainley
Professor of training and education, University of Greenwich


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