Universities may need to accommodate 30,000 extra students this year

June 11th, 2014 Category: Colleges and Higher Education

An additional 30,000 students will begin their journey into higher education this autumn, according to universities minister David Willetts, meaning education establishments will need to accommodate an influx of extra undergraduates.

Mr Willetts told the BBC how important graduates were, as they traditionally earn more money compared to adults that didn’t attend university, which means higher tax returns for the government. He added that a proportion of the additional revenues earned will then be channelled back into the system to fund plans to create places for more students.  

"Graduates are the engines of our future growth," he told the broadcaster. 

In addition to enabling 30,000 additional students to attend university this year, all barriers limiting places will be removed as of next year, meaning even more people will be able to go from 2015.

Mr Willetts told the BBC that there is currently enough funding available to create an extra 60,000 places next year, but this is likely to grow beyond that as there has been an uptick in demand.

He added: "In the longer term, there is a deep trend for more people to go to university. It's not the end of the process."

The minister was also quick to dismiss accusations that the student loans system was too expensive for the government and wouldn't sufficiently support the expansion he foresees. He said increasing university places was in no way linked to selling student loans to the private sector as the network was adequately funded to cover the growth in the short-term.

Over the long-term, he told the BBC, the increasing number of graduates would mean higher tax returns because of students’ boosted earning power. 

According to the universities minister, a female student who achieves a 2:1 for her degree will generate £264,000 more in government revenue in her lifetime compared to a counterpart that did not go on to higher education. 

So, what would this influx of students mean for universities?

More students does not necessarily mean educational establishments will earn more money from fees, as they would have to spend more in order to provide the additional undergraduates with the degree of their choice. More lecturers may need to be hired, universities could be required to build extra accommodation or refurbish existing buildings and improve facilities.

Universities may need to boost their own earning power in order to cope with additional students applying to study. This could mean they look at letting out their facilities while the campus is quiet, during the summer and Easter breaks.

Lecture theatres could easily be leased by third parties to host conferences or training sessions, as they have been designed specifically for presentations. Halls of residences owned by the university can be utilised when the students have gone home for the summer, as they could be rented by those visiting from another country to study a short-course or used as a cheaper alternative to hotels.

If a university is considering letting out their facilities it is important that these amenities are maintained to a high standard and are always clean as this will help to attract potential customers. In addition, campuses must be ready for the students returning in autumn.