University denies unplanned expansion despite emergency meetings

THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER has maintained that it “has not recruited more students than it has planned for”, despite holding emergency planning meetings with the Students’ Guild and resorting to external accommodation providers to house students.

The University has released a statement in response to Exeposé’s investigation into its expansion last issue. The institution disputes two figures it provided Exeposé in response to a Freedom of Information request, figures that indicated more students had enrolled than initially predicted. 

A University spokesperson stated:  “The two sets of figures are based on two different populations and should not be used for comparative purposes as they are ‘apples and pears’.

“Once the University understood the purposes for which the data were being used, we supplied the more appropriate figures. However this is a complex area and the terminology uses very specific definitions. The most appropriate approach to gauging the scale of any over-recruitment is to consider new enrolments against planned targets. The overall undergraduate admissions target for 2013 was 5,192 and we recruited 5,153. At postgraduate taught level, our admissions target for taught programmes was 1,921 and we recruited 1,644. Therefore the total target for taught programmes in 2013 was 7,113 and the actual intake 6,797. In short, the University has not recruited more students than it has planned for”.

Exeposé understands that the University held emergency meetings with the Students’ Guild at the start of the academic year, to discuss a higher student intake than anticipated. According to the Times Education Supplement, Exeter accepted 35 per cent more applicants in 2013 than in 2011, and made a total of 4,385 offers to potential undergraduates in 2013.

In October 2013, Exeposé reported that “University approved” housing in the form of Printworks and UNITE accommodation had been implemented in October 2013 to house 600 extra students, following a 33 per cent boom in applications to the University. The University also reopened James Owen Court and Moberly in September 2013 following temporary closures, having scheduled Lazenby and Hope Hall for conversion to office space.

UCU issued a statement on February 26 that voiced concerns over student staff numbers with regards to University growth: “The 2015 lifting of the cap on student numbers might allow further expansion, but this would only exacerbate our position as the leading University with the worst student: staff ratios (even allowing for subject mix) unless we invest heavily in extra staff numbers, which would highlight problems with our capital stock. While private investment will build student accommodation, it cannot provide teaching and research space for staff, but heavy investment in this will divert revenue away from addressing the staff shortage”.

A Students’ Guild spokesperson commented: “The Students’ Guild is involved in the University planning activity, so is aware of forecasted numbers for the following academic year. It also receives updates based on termly census data that evaluates the number of students currently registered. The methodology behind the figures we have is different from the methodologies outlined by the University so we are unable to verify”.

Vanessa Tracey, a second year student, said: “It is alarming that the University are disputing the figures obtained by Exeposé that prove there was a higher intake of students than expected. More transparency is required if the University is expected to meet the rising demand”. 

Originally published in Exeposé as ‘Uni Clarifies student intake figures’ 

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Author: Louis Doré

Freelance Journalist studying at City University, London on MA Newspaper Journalism.

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