London Metropolitan University faces £6m over-recruitment fine
A London university is facing a fine of just under £6m for over-recruiting UK undergraduates this year.
London Metropolitan University says it recruited 1,500 more students than it should have done, partly because of the rush for places last summer.
It received a letter from England's higher education funding body Hefce this week saying it would be fined £5.9m.
That is more than twice the highest fine imposed last year.
The magazine Times Higher Education is reporting that some believe as many as 25,000 students will have been over-recruited in this way, meaning there could be record fines this year.
Universities in England have to pay roughly £3,700 for each student they take above a set number they have been told they can take.
Last year Hefce imposed fines of just over £8.5m in total.
The largest (£2.2m) was against South Bank University, also in London.
This year's fines will be published by Hefce at the end of March.'Take it on the chin'
London Metropolitan's Vice Chancellor Malcolm Gillies wrote to staff this week to explain what had happened.
He said London Met was one of "many" English universities which had unintentionally over-recruited during a rush for places ahead of the increase in tuition fees for many students in the UK.
The university had been seeking to fill up half of its places through Clearing - the system which matches vacant university places to applicants who generally either apply late or do not get the grades they need for their first choices.
Prof Gillies said: "Because of the volatility of admissions in 2011-12 during Clearing, many English universities unintentionally over-recruited.
"Universities have an obligation to accept students in particular categories. We have always been a big university for Clearing and we are proud of that, of giving an opportunity to students," he told the BBC News website.
"There was a large rush through the gate at the last minute. But we greatly exceeded our number so we have to take it on the chin and recognise that we have an obligation to reach our target and we will have to revise our system."
Prof Gillies said that because the university would receive tuition fees [more than £3,000 a year this academic year] from the extra students it had taken on, this would offset much of the fine.
The net cost of taking on the students would be £700,000 he said.
The government has said over-recruitment is putting extra unexpected pressure on its finances, because of the cost of supporting students with tuition fee loans and bursaries.UK picture
From this autumn, students from England attending universities in any part of the UK will pay tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,000 a year.
The government has been encouraging universities to charge fees of less than £7,500 by offering extra places to those which do.
Fees at London Met range from £4,500 to £9,000 a year, with an average of £6,850.
Students from Scotland who study at universities in other parts of the UK will also pay fees at this level, although Scottish students who stay in Scotland will continue to pay no fees.
Students from Wales will be subsidised by the Welsh government wherever they study in the UK and will pay no more than the present level of fees.
Fees for students from Northern Ireland who stay there to study are being frozen at present levels, but those who study in other parts of the UK will pay fees of up to £9,000 a year.