Project 2012: Uncapping university places

From 2012 universities will no longer receive guaranteed funding for a set number of student places. Universities now need to compete for students and their funding depends on how many students they can attract. The Government is adopting an ‘uncapped’ system of funding that is based on university student demand. In the previous system of ‘capped’ places, Universities that were low in demand were protected because each University was given a certain number of students regardless of who actually wanted to go there.

The students turned away from those Universities in high demand were generally given a place in one of their second or third preferences. Now, instead of the funding being allocated to the Universities, it is going to be allocated to the students and they are entitled to spend it wherever they choose. It is argued that by allowing students more choice and greater chances of getting into the University they want, students will find the idea of University more attractive than they did before. For those Universities in low demand, the difficulty of attracting students may increase as they are thrown into competition with other Universities.

In theory, from 2012, Universities will be able to enrol as many students as they wish in all faculties except for Medicine. For Medical students the funding and number of places will remain capped. Why are places in Medicine remaining capped? In the long run, doctors cost the Government money. The government has no problem with churning out engineers or lawyers left, right and centre, because after university they are independent. The Government wants to control the number of doctors that leave University because the government still needs to provide them funds throughout their practicing years. To uncap the number of places in Medicine would greatly increase the number of doctors that graduate from University and hence drastically increase future government costs. This is one of the reasons why demand for places in medicine will always remain high and hence they had to use other means for selection such as the UMAT.