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Universities Struggling in a Competitive Landscape

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

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In an increasingly competitive market, figures suggest some former polytechnics and colleges are struggling to survive.

Manchester Metropolitan University's Crewe campus is to close in the summer of 2019, with 160 academic jobs at risk.

Despite a recent £70 million redevelopment, the Cheshire site will be shut down after university chiefs confirmed in February it was no longer academically or financially sustainable.

As a result of the job losses, academics will stage a two-day walkout in protest of the university shutting the campus down.

Although students have been told they can finish their degrees, they're concerns lecturers won't be around to teach them.

The scale of the problem for former polytechnics and colleges can be seen in the number of students starting full-time courses between 2011 and 2015. During this period, those attending Russell Group universities grew by 15%, while the number of entrants to MillionPlus institutions, which includes former polytechnics and colleges, declined by 22.9%.

The trend appears to be linked to Russell Group universities lowering their entrance requirements in some subject areas. Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, said: "These young women and men are typically from groups who have historically been under-represented in higher education."

With competition for places intensifying, at least 16 universities have announced redundancy programmes for academic staff.

Commenting on the increasing financial pressures facing institutions, Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, suggests some universities may have to merge to survive. Meanwhile, universities or branch campuses such as Crewe, which typically recruit local students from working-class background, are particularly vulnerable.

The news comes ahead of the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which is to be released this Thursday and ranks institutions on areas such as student satisfaction and employability. Expectations are the new rankings could place further pressure on some universities.