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Pyramid schemes

Those institutions that have expanded most over the past few years tend to have relatively low entry standards, data show.

The decision by George Osborne to lift the cap on the number of home undergraduates that universities in England can recruit has piqued interest in those institutions that have recent experience of significant expansion. Some 30,000 extra places are expected to be available in 2014-15, rising to 60,000 extra places from 2015-16 onwards.

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, is reported to be expecting a 20 per cent growth in the number of home undergraduates. Given that the number of 18 to 21-year-olds in the population is predicted to fall from 1.26 million people in 2013 to 1.17 million in 2015, the proportion of youngsters who enter higher education would increase substantially. The 18 to 21-year-old cohort in England is expected to rise slowly after 2015, recovering to present levels in 2018, according to population data published by the Office for National Statistics.

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