University freezes/stabilises undergraduate numbers after big campaign by SU

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The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Learning and Teaching, Professor Peter Lambert, yesterday informed academic reps at the SU taught academic council meeting, that the University is ‘stabilising’ undergraduate student numbers.

This announcement comes after a similar message from the Vice-Chancellor at a staff “Lets Talk” event.

A record high for student numbers was seen this academic year, with an increase of 4.5% on last years figures for first year undergraduate admissions, raising the intake to 3471.

This led to a student housing crisis in bath, resulting in 228 students having to share rooms in university managed accommodation.

Due to the pressures of student numbers and the high level of student sharing rooms, the SU ran a high profile campaign attacking the University for its recruitment and released an open letter, calling the situation “unacceptable”.

The open letter from SU President Jordan Kenny stated “The University may not have a contractual commitment to all students who study at Bath regarding accommodation but it certainly has a moral one, to ensure that students are not left on their own to suffer in terrible living conditions.”

The Vice Chancellor responded with her own open letter on behalf of the University saying that recruitment had been “carefully controlled” and that the University “did not overshoot [their]entry targets”

“There are important pressures on capacity which are impacting on the availability of accommodation, as well as other aspects of city life” The open letter went on to say “It is absolutely right that we should be working together to enable all our students to be housed properly and we are taking the appropriate steps to do so.”

This is a big win for the students union, who have put availability of space as one of its top 10 issues this year. The strong stance taken by the SU on this issue has resulted in many wins, with this freeze in student numbers arguably the biggest so far.

Jordan Kenny has told bathimpact that “The freezing of recruitment of additional Undergraduate students is a fantastic achievement secured by Bath SU. We however have a long way still to go, looking at the impact of further recruitment of all students and challenging additional recruitment and its implications in regards to social space, learning and teaching activities and access to additional services to name a few.

“Students have demonstrated that together our voices have been more powerful than ever before, contributing to a change in direction of University strategy on the growth in student numbers.”

bathimpact also collected statements from students about the impact of student numbers earlier this year and provided the University with these before the University Council meeting.

The University has told bathimpact that they are “considering its future strategic direction” and that the University “takes into account many factors”.

“These include the level of demand from undergraduate and postgraduate applicants and the international, national and local context in which we operate. University strategy is ultimately determined by the Council of the University which includes representatives from the Students’ Union.

“Building on a period of outstanding success which has seen growth in the scale and impact of our research activity and corresponding growth in the quality and scale of our provision for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, the University intends to stabilise its undergraduate intake for 2016 as one of the key strategies which will underpin this future direction even though we are this year anticipating receiving over 28,000 applications from prospective students for a place on one of our programmes.

“This will enable us to focus on continuing to improve the experience our undergraduate and postgraduate students enjoy here as we pursue our stated strategic goal of becoming an international leader in graduate education.”

However, this will not alleviate the current demand for space and provision on campus. Student numbers will still see a real term increase as when students graduate they are replaced with a new cohort of students at a higher number. Undergraduate student numbers will only plateaux when the current first years approach their final year.

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Tommy Parker is Editor-in-Chief (2016/17) and former Students' Union Community Officer (2014/15). He writes about gaming, equality issues and the University of Bath.

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