It has been suggested that nearly 100 out of the 130 Universities in England could be forced to accept less undergraduates this year following the introduction of Coalition reforms designed to drive down tuition fees.
The cuts are being imposed following the introduction of new rules that effectively penalise universities charging more than £7,500 in student fees from this autumn.
Many members of the elite Russell Group are among those facing reductions, with Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton being particularly hit. Data from the Government’s Higher Education Funding Council for England suggests some newer universities such as Bedfordshire and East London are expecting to lose around one-in-eight places.
Sir Alan Langlands, the funding council’s chief executive, denied the loss of student places would tip any institution into “significant financial trouble”.
But Prof Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of Sussex University and chairman of the 1994 Group, which represents many small research institutions, said the figures show that “many excellent students will be denied places at their first choice universities.”
“The number of students universities are allowed to recruit has been cut across the sector, with 20,000 places auctioned off to institutions with lower than average fees,” he said.
“Far from giving the best universities freedom to take on more students this represents a push to a cut-price education.”
Under Coalition reforms, funding gaps are expected to be plugged by a rise in annual student tuition fees – from £3,290 to £9,000.
But to keep the student loans bill down, some 20,000 places are being taken from all institutions and redistributed to universities and colleges charging less than £7,500.