The British government will go ahead with a controversial plan to limit the number of students from the UK who can enroll in universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, rejecting opposition from delegated administrations.
Education ministers from Scotland and Wales angrily condemned the move, which they said was designed to stop competition damaging students among British universities but could otherwise damage the stability of their own institutions.
Michelle Donelan, minister of higher education for the UK, held all-day meetings with her colleagues from the delegated government, but refused to support the policy.
Kirsty Williams, Welsh education minister, said after meeting with Donelan: “I strongly disagree with the British approach on this issue.
“I respect decision making in and for Britain, just as I do for other governments in the UK. Simply put, I expect the same respect from the minister. I will continue to consider my options. “
Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s minister of higher education, said the plan was “very disappointing”. “This is absolutely unnecessary and can add further damage to the sector, given that around 10% of registrations currently come from the UK,” he said, and called on the British government to work with the administration delegated to find a solution.
Last year, 26,700 students from the UK registered at Scottish tertiary institutions, accounting for 10% of total enrollments. But only 9,220 Scottish students apply to UK universities.
Scottish students studying in Scotland can apply to pay their school fees, but are charged in full if they study in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, while students from all over the UK must pay tuition if they study in Scotland.
This closure is intended to stop what the Department of Education considers to be a damaging competition for students between universities in the UK, which are trying to recruit more UK students to replace international students who are fleeing because of the coronavirus outbreak. The limit applied in the UK will be the intake of each agency’s previous estimate, plus 5%.
Donelan did not respond to the complaint, but said after the meeting: “These steps seek to ensure students have the widest diversity possible and the most suitable places to study in the coming academic year, while avoiding dangerous recruitment among providers, which can conflict with the interests of students and the sector.
“Control will make adjustments to take into account offers received before June 1, and will utilize taxpayer funds to support students.”
That details shows that the UK government intends to enforce limits – which would limit delegated universities to grow 6.5% on students from the UK – by passing new laws that enable it to reduce the amount of tuition paid to offending universities the following year.
The government in the UK will also direct more student places to high-performing universities, such as those in the Russell Group from leading research institutions, in an effort to limit what is called a “low-quality” program.
DfE revealed that only groups selected with the results of the strongest graduates can bid bonus places from the 5,000 pot, including institutions with low drop-out rates and those who have at least three-quarters of their graduates work in “high-skilled jobs”.
An additional 5,000 potential places for care, midwifery, and other health care courses such as physiotherapy will also be open to offer, without restrictions.
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