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Government spells out sanctions for private providers that over-recruit

The Government has spelled out the consequences for private higher education providers that over-recruit, in a new set of guidelines on student number controls.

Ultimately, they could lose the right to recruit home and European Union students eligible for financial support, the guidance says.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says private colleges that over-recruit will have to pay a fine within 20 working days or risk losing the ability to recruit home and EU students.

The guidance follows the government’s decision to bring forward by a year its cap on student numbers at private colleges, after the cost to the public purse of student loans for private courses trebled to £270 million last year.

Providers who exceed their student number control allocation will be given the opportunity to pay a set charge per student which reflects the costs of providing loans.

The charges will be set by BIS each year, and will be similar to penalties paid by public universities that overshoot their student intake quota.

The BIS guidance stresses that the charge will take into account the fact that tuition fee loans at alternative providers are capped at £6,000 per year rather than £9,000.

Any provider found to be over-subscribed will be given 20 days to pay or appeal against the charge, with all appeals ruled on by the Alternative Providers Student Number Controls Committee.

If providers do not pay any fees they owe, the Alternative Providers Student Number Controls Committee will be able to apply a number of sanctions. The most drastic of these would be to remove student support designation for all of the provider’s courses. This would mean the institution would no longer be able to recruit students eligible for student support – which includes all home and EU students.

In its Autumn Statement, the Government announced the removal of all student number controls in 2015/16 for publically-funded institutions.

However, only alternative providers deemed to be “high quality” will be freed from student number controls – while “high risk” providers will still be subject to a cap.

The Government will calculate number controls for alternative providers based on recruitment levels from the previous year, and will inform providers of their provisional number control for 2014/15 in January.