Universities are planning how many students they will enrol and in what disciplines next year, when most basic government grants will be set at 2017 levels and how they will present it all to the public.
The Innovative Research University group is looking at one, or a combination, of three options. Set student targets by funding level to match the basic government grant. Enrol more students than the number needed to generate the grant. And emphasise enrolments in discipline areas “where the student contribution is the more significant revenue stream.”
That universities can decide how to use their government funding for students is a smallish but still poisonous chalice. It gives them more flexibility than in 2005-2012, when the government specified enrolments by funding-cluster, with rules governing over-enrolment. But if they increase student numbers in disciplines that generate the best margins they will face claims they are teaching yet more lawyers and accountants, “which only stimulates the unhelpful we have too many graduates debate.“
Whatever they do, the public focus should be “on the impact for students, potential students and their families not the financial challenge,” an IRU observer suggests.