You are probably aware of the current press coverage around recruitment across the Higher Education sector for the new entry in 2012. We have of course all been aware of the very significant funding changes taking place for entry this year, with the introduction of higher fees and I wanted to reassure colleagues about the current position here at Bradford.
I also want to reflect on what the implications of the current position are in terms of our longer term strategy. I will be arranging a series of meetings in Schools and Corporate Services in the next two to three weeks where I can talk to you more directly about our position and you can have the opportunity to raise any issues and questions you have directly with me.
As I indicated to you in my last message, we will be welcoming fewer students to the University this year than in previous years. We are likely to be below our Student Contract Number (the number set by our funding council, HEFCE, for Home/EU undergraduates) but we will not know the precise figure until enrolment is complete. At present we look to have recruited 1900 students on a target figure of 2106. However I would stress that figure continues to change.
We did over recruit last year and incurred a significant penalty so we have been anxious not to do that this year. Our recruitment of overseas students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level has also been challenging, especially in the light of U.K. Border Agency issues, but we are continuing to work hard to maintain our traditionally strong international recruitment levels. I would again wish to thank all of our staff who have been working so hard over the last month dealing with applications and acceptances. That hard work is greatly appreciated in what has been a very different and sometimes challenging clearing period.
There will inevitably be financial consequences. When we have a clearer picture we will be looking at how we ensure the continued financial and academic health of the University. That is important for all of us wherever we work and whatever our role. We want to maintain employment and morale and do all we can, as we have done up to now, to avoid compulsory redundancies within the University. Everyone has a stake in seeking to maintain employment and I remain grateful to staff for the work they have done to continue to strengthen where we are.
Let me be clear that I am not gloomy about where we are and what we can learn from the 2012 entry. We knew there were significant challenges from the fee regime and we were confident that the strengths we had to offer – especially excellent employability for our students and a staff fully engaged in research and professional activity – would justify our fee levels. We have continued to attract very good students to our courses. Students achieving AAB grades have continued to choose Bradford, our overall UCAS tariff for students entering this year has continued to rise, and our undergraduate recruitment has not in any way ‘collapsed’ as some of the gloomier prognoses of last year might have suggested.
Within the context of the sector, and given the magnitude of the changes for 2012 we should be confident and pleased that our undergraduate recruitment is as strong as it is. As we argued in our discussions in the course of our fee-setting, the key to our future success is not whether or not we meet what is in essence an external ‘target’ for our contract numbers. It is our ability to attract enough good students in an open market. To achieve this we must articulate how they will benefit from their investment in the future. Our focus on Making Knowledge Work remains absolutely critical and the key elements of that, which I presented in an earlier update, remain the key to our continued success. Our efforts need to continue to focus on the difference that a Bradford degree makes to individuals and communities.
I look forward to talking about these challenges and opportunities with you in the next few weeks. Thank you for all your efforts to ensure our continued sustainability in the future. For me all of the speculation, reflection and discussion about ‘what will happen in 2012’ is at least close to being answered. The University is in good shape and has continued to attract good students. Our focus on employability and on our research activity has resonated with those students. Of course there remain both short and medium-term challenges in how and what we deliver, and how we ensure our sustainability. Nevertheless I would urge you to remain confident and positive as we move into the new environment for higher education.