By Abbie Jones
Greater Manchester universities have lost hundreds of students and subsequently lost millions of pounds since tuition fees were increased.
Salford University said revenue is down by £4m with 440 fewer students. The University of Bolton said it will have to make up to 80 staff redundant because 150 fewer students this year has resulted in a loss of £1m.
The universities minister said he recognised the total number of students was “rather lower” than forecast. Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester’s student numbers are about 500 down.
Professor Martin Hall, vice chancellor at the University of Salford, said higher education faced its “biggest challenge in 50 years”. He said: “Finding £4m in the middle of a year is a difficult thing to do; so it is a big challenge.
“We now know across Britain as a whole there are up to about 60,000 students short across the sector.
“It’s not just us with our 440 places; there are 60,000 students simply gone missing.”
Dr George Holmes, vice chancellor of University of Bolton, said it has done well with enrolling younger students. But he added: “One of the most worrying things this year for universities is that mature students appear to have been put off more than 18-year-olds.
“In terms of the mature student market, that has dropped off by as much as 50%.”
There has been an extra problem for universities which heavily on recruiting students with AAB grades or higher at A-Level. The University of Manchester thought it could attract 3,883 of these, but this year not as many students got those high grades. Often universities cannot top up with lower grade students because there is are quotas enforced.
Universities Minister David Willets said he recognised student numbers were down but pledged to work hard to encourage students to apply next year. However, he said some institutions had an seen increase in student numbers.
Mr Willets said: “Universities are in a more competitive market and that means some will lose students and others will gain students.
“That will arise not because of a decision by government in Whitehall but because of choices by individual students about where they wish to apply.” (BBC News)