Should UCAS publish application numbers to universities?

Today’s Guardian provides a short article on the  decision of UCAS – influenced by universities – not to publish detailed information on the number of applications to individual institutions, not even to ministers.

The argument is that making such information available early in the recruitment cycle could potentially destabilise a university with low application numbers. This could eventually become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Shouting from the safety of Oxford et al are those who say we must tell everyone what is going on in detail with application data, so that no one sends their children to possibly failing institutions.

Matt Robb of Parthenon Consulting is quoted as predicting:

“that struggling universities will be looking to sell off key assets, such as their business schools, in order to cope with lost fees that could run to the tens of millions. He has already received telephone calls from some institutions wanting to discuss possible mergers.

“In the last six to 12 months there has been a sea change in universities’ willingness to pursue radical new options, including merger and private investment,” he says. “It is quite extraordinary how quickly some institutions have broadened their thinking.”

He adds: “It is now clear that you’ve got to be distinctive and you’ve got to think about the quality and value of what you offer. People have been talking about this in the sector for a long time, but almost no one took it on board. Being a bog-standard general university is no longer enough.”

Some of the last paragraph links to my previous post on the recent IPPR paper, and the need for universities to create a distinctive identity.