|HK students may be in dark over failing UK universities as institutions hide data
Thousands of potential Hong Kong students seeking undergraduate studies in Britain may never know if a particular university is in trouble, as institutions are preventing enrolment data from becoming public.
The lack of data on the number of applications received by universities in Britain could badly affect thousands of Hong Kong students, who also have to contend with far tighter immigration laws, including bans on employment. More than 3,900 undergraduates gained entry to British universities in 2012-2013, according to official data.
Meanwhile, British higher educational institutions showed the door to 277 Chinese students last year, according to official figures from the organization that processes applications for undergraduate studies in the UK, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Media reports said in London that for the first time, this year Ucas, has decided to withhold annual figures on the number of applications to individual institutions. The Guardian reported that data on undergraduate applications for the 2013-14 academic year, was scheduled to be released after 15 January.
According to Ucas, the data was withheld because of “potential volatility in supply and demand’’following the introduction of higher fees last year. However, vice-chancellors say Ucas is responding to intense pressure from specific institutions whose numbers are seriously deflated for the second year running and who are determined that this should not become public knowledge, the Guardian reported yesterday.
Figures on last year's enrolments, released by Ucas in January, revealed shocking declines at some institutions, leading experts to warn that a university could go to the wall. London Metropolitan University was hit the hardest with a drop of 43 percent in 2012-13 compared with the previous year. Other notable casualties included the University of Bolton, which was down 25 percent, the University of Greenwich, down 23 percent, Leeds Metropolitan University, down 23 percent, and the University of East London, down 20.4 percent.
Mary Curnock Cook, Ucas chief executive, said: “Ucas's decision not to publish institutional-level data in the middle of the live cycle reflects our concerns that such information could be over-interpreted both by institutions and applicants and give rise to unintended market effects.’’
She added: “The January-deadline data doesn't take account of institutions that may typically recruit a greater proportion of applicants later in the cycle – from mature and international markets, for example. We are also concerned that applicants, who are taking decisions at a course level, could put too much weight on institution-level data.’’
Legal experts say that Ucas may be worried about litigation if it releases negative applications data which is claimed to defame a university. However, David Palfreyman, the bursar at New College Oxford, warns that students or parents may also seek to sue if they feel they have been kept in the dark. “There is a serious question of what the government's consumer protection duty is here,’’he said. “Shouldn't kids and parents be able to hear that a place is heading into trouble, where undergraduate education may be disrupted by wind-down or even closure?’’
He suggested that universities provide a guarantee to students in the form of a bond.