Universities, through a scheme set up by the government, have offered large numbers of students £10,000 if they defer their studies a year or transfer to a different university.
Why is this deal being offered?
Following last year’s kerfuffle with GCSE and A-level grades, the results this summer have gone the complete other way. 44.8% of the A-level grades awarded this year were As or A*s, which is almost double the amount achieved in 2019, which was the last year that exams were able to take place.
This, hand in hand with more people applying to university, has put some universities in tight positions wherein their top courses are oversubscribed. Particularly, universities offering medicine and dentistry courses. Applications to these courses have risen 20% this year alone. This led to a large number of offers being handed out to applicants, too many of whom have attained the necessary grades.
The University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor told the BBC that the nature of teacher-assessed grades made it hard to judge the correct number of offers to hand out, as grades were hard to predict. With some courses, this oversubscription would likely just lead to very full lectures, however, when it comes to courses such as medicine and dentistry, there is a government cap.
The government have placed a national cap, and a cap for each university, which they are not permitted to exceed. This has increased this year, in order to allow students who couldn’t apply to or attend university last September due to grading issues or covid concerns. Even so, the cap of 7,950 (usually 7,500) was not enough, as 8,600 people held offers to study medicine. The cap is in place to ensure that students get adequate teaching, places on the necessary clinical placements, and also to ensure the government can cover the costs of the degrees, as each one costs around 18k.
What is the offer?
In response to this over-subscription, the Department of Education has set up the Incentivised Transfer Scheme. This allows universities that are oversubscribed to offer their students a chance to transfer their place to a different university. In exchange, they will provide the student with £10,000 in cash as an ‘inconvenience’ payment. Students offered the scheme did not have to accept, but if they did, had one week to find their new place.
Other universities are offering more than just the cash; the University of Exeter is also offering students who defer or transfer a year of free housing – usually worth about £7k. This means students will have a guaranteed place on their course, £10,000 in the meantime, and free halls when they arrive. Similarly, the University of Leeds is offering business and law students the same deal due to their oversubscribed classes.
What are the pros?
Obviously, one major pro is the £10,000 in cash. But aside from that, deferring a year can provide students with the chance to get more work experience, save money, and also have a break from studying. This is particularly useful for those looking to study medicine, as they’ll likely be studying for quite some time once they get to university, and it isn’t going to be easy!
What are the cons?
Whilst there are pros, the cons to this scheme mean that students applying to medicine and dentistry next year are going to be even less likely to achieve an offer or a place, and the scheme may have to continue. It also means that any students who had planned on going to university that accept the offer will have to plan for another year at home, which may mean finding a new job, making new friends, and adjusting to another year with their parents.