Sunday, 25 January 2015

What Does The End of Student Number Control Mean for Bucks?

Animation classroom at Bucks. What makes us special?
Student Number Control is the system by which the Government used to regulate how many students each university in the UK could accept.  Every university had a quota, which it could not exceed. But from September 2015, Student Number Control will be gone. So what does this mean, and does it even matter? The answer is yes - it matters a lot.  Big changes are ahead for universities across the UK. Here at Bucks, it means we have to try even harder to be the very best Animation and Visual Effects Course in the country. Because second best just isn't an option.

It's all George Osbourne's fault
How did the system used to work?
Until this year, the government used to fund a fixed number of places at each university by lending students the money to cover their fees. The system was run by The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and there was very little flexibility in these quotas.

HEFCE - running the show

How is the system changing?
From September 2015,  each university can take as many students as it likes. The quota system will be scrapped entirely. No limits, no quotas. In effect, the free market will rule. The strongest courses at the best universities will expand, and the weakest will close. It will be survival of the fittest.

How it used to be: Bologna, the first university.

Is this good news?
It all depends on your point of view. The best news is that there will be many more places at University, potentially throwing higher education open to tens of thousands of extra students. According to the Chancellor - up to 30,000 extra students. So what this means is, potentially, a big further expansion of higher education in the UK.

It also means that universities which are very good at what they do, and are heavily over-subscribed, will be free to expand their numbers. And new universities that you haven't even heard of yet will be tempted to start up new courses.

What is the bad news?
The bad news is that universities which have traditionally struggled to fill their quotas will be struggling even more. Expansion at the top means contraction at the bottom, so any university course which isn't already popular and performing at a high level will be under pressure.

Adam Smith would approve

Does this amount to privatisation of higher education?
In a way, yes. It certainly is an extension of free market principles to higher education, which has traditionally been heavily protected from the chilly winds of the market. If you are a follower of Adam Smith, you will probably rejoice. If you're in Karl Marx's team - it is very bad news.

What does this mean for animation at Bucks?
For universities all across the country, all this means big changes. Under-subscribed courses will likely have to close down or re-invent themselves. Popular, successful courses will likely expand and thrive. Some universities will likely face the threat of shrinkage, being taken over, or possibly even closure.

Gateway - our cutting-edge media hub

Take a look at The Times and The Guardian university league tables, and Bucks doesn't do very well. But, focus on the creative arts, especially media production, and we do much, much better. The £40m investment in 2007 in the Gateway building (above) has paid off, with huge growth in media courses like Performance, Film and TV, Sound Design, Music Management and (of course!) Animation and Visual Effects. We are becoming the dynamic, creative hub that we ought to be.

The Gateway building, stuffed with modern kit, is one of the best things about Bucks. The opportunity for our students to collaborate with other departments, exploring film-making across other disciplines, is huge, and it is unique. Any university can offer an animation course. Not many can offer the range of collaborations that Bucks can.

Sound design at Bucks
I get out of bed every morning and ask myself - why should students study with us, and not at one of the many other animation course in the UK?  The answer is, we need keep improving what we do all the time, and make sure the course gets better and better every year. 

Our goal is to be the best animation and visual effects course in the country. For us, the ending of Student Number Control is an opportunity to grow our course and become the UK leader that we want to be.

That's a big ambition. Ask me in three years if we have pulled it off or not. Or, better yet, ask our students.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks.

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