The news that recruitment controls have been applied to higher education recruiters of PE shouldn’t come as a surprise to any reader of this blog. On the 5th November, I wrote:
‘Earlier in the week I estimated it might be some time next week when recruitment controls would be introduced in PE’
So, it was a little surprising that rather than issue a warning civil servants apparently said on the 13th November
It has been two weeks since recruitment for 2016/17 began through UTT and we are pleased to report applicants are showing an interest in ITT. However, whilst recruitment is looking healthy – especially in some of the popular subjects such as Physical Education (PE) and Primary – there is no need to panic as we are not close to stopping recruitment just yet.
We have heard fears of recruitment controls being implemented in the coming weeks and recruitment being stopped altogether and wanted to reassure you that NCTL will announce whenever recruitment has reached around 50%, 75%, 90% and 95% of national recruitment controls. There will be no unexpected or immediate instruction from NCTL to stop recruitment.
Well, I don’t know what you interpret those two paragraphs to mean, and I am sure my blog comment didn’t lead to the line about rumours, but it seems disingenuous to put out such a statement and introduce controls a week later with no advance warning. I am sure it was just a lack of familiarity of the speed with which applications can arrive in our new electronic age compared with old days of postal sacks winging their way to UCAS at Cheltenham that forced the hand of civil servants.
Still, it does raise the issue of ‘Wednesbury reasonableness’ it anyone wanted to mount a judicial review. Is it reasonable to offer candidates three choices but to be able to cut off some of these after a person has booked an expensive train ticket or should an applicant be able to expect the same rules for all of their choices?
It is not for me to answer that question, but it would surely have been better to introduce controls alongside a fixed application date. This would have allowed all applications by that date to have been considered and if the overall total exceeded the point at which controls would need to have been introduced the course providers could each have been told how many offers they could make and would, presumably, have selected the best rather than the fastest to apply as has now happened. The current system also discriminates against late applicants and if it can be shown that it has favoured certain groups over others that won’t help defend a charge of it being a reasonable system.
Whether it is reasonable to use public money to favour certain types of provider is also a question for the lawyers. But, I hope that a better and fairer scheme will be devised for next year.