Universities are issued a stark warning by the Office for Students

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Whilst there has been some encouraging news this week coming out of the MAC report on the graduate route for international visas, the week finishes on a stark warning from the Office for Students on institutional targets for student growth.

As part of their just published report of the Financial Sustainability of higher education providers in England 2004 (full report can be found here), they have analysed each providers predictions for student numbers and came up with following observation:

“In aggregate, the forecasts submitted by providers assume growth of 35% in international student entrants and 24% in UK student entrants between 2022-23 and 2026-27.  The latest data on undergraduate applications and student visa application indicates that there has been an overall decline in student entrants this including a significant decline in international students”.

In essence, in response to the current financial challenges many universities are facing, universities are predicting to grow domestic and international students as way of driving their sustainability.  The OFS are basically saying that the sector is being way over optimistic if all institutions think they can achieve these numbers and therefore, may be delaying making other more difficult decisions over their operating models which will cause even bigger problems further down the line.

Is it time for the sector to stop kidding itself and get more realistic or are many just waiting in the vain hope that the government will address the overall funding model before drastic action is needed?  At this moment in time, driving through, at pace, organisational effectiveness and efficiency initiatives, rather than solely relying on what might turn out to be spurious growth predications, is sounding like a good option……