13 August 2012

million+: Late decision by Hefce will limit funded student numbers

The university think-tank million+ has concluded that a late decision by Hefce (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) will limit the pool of students with vocational qualifications who can be recruited by universities outside of the student number controls. With days to go to clearing, Hefce has told universities that only BTEC National Diplomas (NQF) and Extended Diplomas (QCF) at grades DDD or higher will count as equivalent to AAB at A-level and be exempt from student number controls. All other Level 3 BTEC Nationals will count towards student number controls, even if the sum of their grades is equivalent to AAB at A-level. The Hefce clarification, issued in an email to institutions days before clearing, is contrary to the advice received by some universities previously. Hefce is also seeking to apply this provision to 2013-14 student number controls.

Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of the university think-tank million+ said: “BTEC students with high grades and 360 UCAS points will count against a university’s student number controls while an AAB A-level student with 340 UCAS points will be excluded. This is clearly biased against high-potential undergraduates who progress to higher education with qualifications other than A-levels and will limit the number of students who can be recruited by universities. With days to go before students get their results, it adds further complexities to clearing. This will also limit the overall number of funded student places that will be available and shows the risks of market intervention based on a narrow view of qualifications and aspiration.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. million+ is a leading university think-tank, working to solve the complex problems in higher education www.millionplus.ac.uk. For more information please contact Drew Lindon on 0207 717 1655 or 07900 277819.
2. Hefce’s list of qualifications equivalent to grades AAB or above at A-level can be found here. The possible grades for BTEC are Pass (P), Merit (M), Distinction (D), and Distinction* (D*).
3. As a result of Hefce’s decision announced on 9th August, only BTEC National Diplomas (NQF) and Extended Diplomas (QCF) at grades DDD or higher will count as equivalent to AAB at A-level and be exempt from student number controls. All other Level 3 BTEC Nationals (e.g. NQF National Awards, NQF National Certificates; QCF Certificates; QCF Subsidiary Diplomas; QCF Diplomas) will not be exempt and will count towards student number controls, even if the sum of their grades is DDD or higher.
4. As a result a D*D*M (360 points) BTEC student will count against a university’s student number control, whereas as an AAB (340 points) student will not. The clarification will favour universities which recruit students from more traditional backgrounds and will disadvantage universities which recognise a wider range of qualifications. Over 50% of students now progress to university with qualifications other than A-levels.