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The University of Southampton will have 600 fewer students this year
The University of Southampton will have 600 fewer students starting later this month compared to last year’s intake.
The vice-chancellor has described the slump in numbers as a “wake-up call”.
The university has been unable to find enough high-performing students to fill gaps on courses and was forced to turn away hundreds of bright candidates because they did not get the right grades.
A Government cap, which has been placed on all higher education institutions, meant it could only recruit around 1,500 undergraduates with A-level grades lower than AAB.
Although Southamp-ton was able to enlist an unlimited number of top-performing students, it only managed to sign up 200 through the clearing process for those without places once results are announced.
With the proportion of A and A* grades awarded dropping for the first time in 20 years, vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam said the pool of elite students simply “dried up”.
He revealed the situation in an email, seen by the Daily Echo, sent to the 5,000 staff employed at the Highfield-based institution.
The intake slump comes as students are faced with vastly increased tuition fees of £9,000-a-year, introduced by the Government as it drastically cuts central grants for higher education.
Southampton’s funding fell by eight per cent this year, with a £9.3m reduction in the cash for teaching softened by a £1m rise in its grant for research.
And although there has been a drop in the number of British undergraduates re-cruited, the 600-student drop on the usual intake of between 5,000 and 5,500 has been cushioned slightly by an increase in those coming to study from abroad, who pay even more in tuition fees.
Prof Nutbeam said the situation must not be repeated next year, but promised not to “over-react”, and insisted the university, which has an annual turnover of £435m, would cope.
Prof Nutbeam said: “This has been a cruel year for the 2012 intake who have had to deal with increased fees, tough A-level marking, and a one-year artificial set of controls on university access.
“Fortunately, because of the efficiencies we have worked so hard to achieve in the past two years, the university is able to cope financially with the consequences of this downturn in intake in this year.”