Universities UK are considering implementing emergency caps on how many students English universities can recruit.
The emergency limits are being considered as part of the “stability measures” that Universities UK are considering to combat the disruption that the Coronavirus outbreak has caused.
International student numbers are expected to drop severely, causing financial issues for many universities that rely on fees from international students as a key source of revenue.
The Minister of Universities , Michelle Donelan, has also warned that A-level students are switching to unconditional offers after A-level exams were scrapped, with grades being awarded from teacher assessments.
Some universities such as Liverpool and Essex have recently changed many offers to unconditional to compete with more prestigious universities.
The higher education watchdog, the Office for Students, intervened last week and issued a moratorium to stop universities making unconditional offers. The moratorium is due to expire this week, with one official warning of a “free for all” of unconditional offers unless caps were introduced.
Reintroducing number caps would protect those universities that have grown the most in recent years by locking down the number of home students that they educate
– Nick Hillman, head of the Higher Education Policy Institute
University admissions numbers were previously made unrestricted by the government in 2015. The emergency caps have faced opposition from Russell Group universities that rely more on international students for funding.
Universities in opposition to the emergency policy have argued that there is “no rush” to introduce the policy given the uncertainty of the Coronavirus situation, and that the decision can be delayed to July at the latest.
Vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, Sir Chris Husbands, argued that: “Radical action is needed on university admissions.”
Nick Hillman, the head of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “We have to protect our university sector at a time of such profound change.
“Reintroducing number caps would protect those universities that have grown the most in recent years by locking down the number of home students that they educate.
“Older, more prestigious universities would be the biggest losers, as they had hoped to be able to replace lost international students with more home students.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “We are committed to supporting our world class higher education institutions, and will continue working closely with the sector to manage the impact of Coronavirus.”