BIS on AAB+/ABB+ threshold

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) published Government Response on Consultation “Students at the Heart of the System“. Two points relevant to mathematics:

(A) Unconstrained recruitment of students with AAB+/ABB+ is to stay:

2.2.52 HEFCE’s decision that institutions will retain a student number limit equal to at least 20% of their 2011-12 numbers also means that for the institutions that currently recruit a very high proportion of AAB+ students, there will still be a core to make contextual data offers, and they will still be able to expand if they choose to. HEFCE will look at how best to achieve a similar outcome for 13/14, with the introduction of ABB+. […]

[p. 33] However we are clear that our tariff policy (allowing unconstrained recruitment of students with AAB+ and equivalent grades for 2012/13 and ABB+ from 2013/14) should not impact negatively on fair access to higher education by taking away places from people from disadvantaged backgrounds. […]

(B) But mathematics is excluded from “contestable margin”:

1.4 […] [F]rom 2013/14 the tariff policy should be further liberalised to apply to students with ABB+ grades, taking one in three entrants out of number controls. We also announced that a further 5,000 places should be made available through the contestable margin. […]

2.2.53. We also welcome the way in which HEFCE has implemented our core and margin policy. In particular we welcome the fact that: […]

Student numbers in chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics and modern foreign languages will be excluded from the calculation to create the margin.

Regarding (A), BIS recognises that

2.2.42. Many respondents expressed the view that AAB+ grades are harder to achieve in STEM subjects and warned of the potential consequences for the supply of STEM graduates. They were concerned that unconstrained recruitment would lead to students choosing to study subjects in which they are most likely to achieve AAB+ grades, and to institutions favouring those courses where they can attract large numbers of high-achieving students.


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