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Universities awarded extra places for courses amid cap on student numbers

By Eleanor Busby
The UK Government has unveiled the universities which can offer extra places on courses from September amid student number controls.

A temporary cap on the number of students that universities in England can recruit has been introduced to prevent institutions from over-recruiting to make up for lost revenue as a result of Covid-19.

But nearly 9,500 additional places at UK universities – for courses that will deliver vital services and generate positive outcomes for students and taxpayers – have now been approved by the Government.

More than 1,300 extra university places have been confirmed for engineering courses, 756 places for bio-sciences and almost 500 for maths courses as part of the Government’s drive to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subject take-up.

A total of 5,611 places for healthcare courses have also been allocated at universities in England to support the NHS, with 3,803 of these additional places going to nursing courses.

The announcement, from UK universities minister Michelle Donelan, reveals that more than 70 institutions across the UK have been granted additional places.

More than a quarter (28%) of the places on offer – 2,668 in total – have been allocated to universities in the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the UK’s most selective institutions.

Last month, the UK Government announced that 5,000 extra places would be available through a bidding system for subjects of “strategic importance”, like engineering, science and maths.

The UK Department for Education also said a further 5,000 places would be allocated for healthcare courses, including nursing, midwifery and paramedics.

It came after the UK Government confirmed that English institutions would have the number of students capped at their forecast growth plus 5% this year, while universities in the devolved nations will not be able to increase their intake of English students by more than 6.5%.

The announcement prompted concerns among the sector that the temporary cap was being used to limit the future growth of the sector with certain courses in the coming years.

Former UK universities minister Jo Johnson warned that providers of social sciences, arts and humanities courses should be “most worried” about the Government’s student number controls.

The UK Government said the bids for extra places were assessed on the quality of each provider – including dropout rates and graduate employment outcomes.

Ms Donelan said: “The coronavirus will not stop us from boosting growth in vital subjects like science, engineering, and maths.”

“These courses not only deliver some of the best outcomes for students, they will also be integral to driving innovation, helping our public services and building the skills the country needs.”

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: “These courses deliver a hugely positive impact in the economy, helping support industries through encouraging upskilling and reskilling.”

“This is particularly important in the current climate and we hope the inspirational stories we have seen during the pandemic of student nurses contributing to the national effort and supporting their local communities encourages others to consider this as a potential career.”

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