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Reforms boost further education colleges

Government reforms designed to diversify higher education and lower fees have boosted the number of student places allocated to further education colleges.

Results of the “core and margin” process of student controls, published on 7 March, show that next year the Higher Education Funding Council for England will extend direct funding to another 65 further education colleges.

The reforms were introduced following the government’s White Paper last year. Under the scheme, some 20,000 student places were cut across the board and redistributed to institutions charging an average of £7,500 per year in fees or less.

HEFCE said the 20,000 places had been divided between 35 universities (9,643 extra students), and 155 further education colleges (10,354 additional places).

All the universities to see their student allocation rise under the scheme are members of the Million+, University Alliance and Guild HE mission groups.

Anglia Ruskin University received the biggest boost with 569 extra places in 2012-13, followed by London Metropolitan University with 564 and Nottingham Trent University with 558.

Within further education colleges, places were split between a larger number of institutions, but individual colleges will still see big increases.

Hartpury College in Gloucester, for example, will gain an extra 352 student places, and Newham College of Further Education in London 294.

According to HEFCE, bids were assessed on criteria of quality, demand and cost and the body received bids from 203 institutions for 36,000 places.

HEFCE said it will announce the full student number controls and associated funding for higher education in 2012-13 on 29 March.

Under the reforms, universities will also be able to recruit an unlimited number of students with A-levels at grade AAB, which is likely to strongly benefit Russell Group and 1994 Group universities.