Overall caps on the number of students at universities have been dropped by ministers following an outcry from vice-chancellors.
The government has been consulting the higher education sector since February on reinstating controversial controls on admissions as part of a hard line on “poor quality” courses.
One of the four proposed measures was “the overall number of students could be controlled at the sector level”, with universities granting a maximum allocation to entrants.
Other policies suggested were total number caps with exemptions for certain courses and caps by subject level based either on their national graduate employment rates or on the basis of graduate performance at individual universities.
However, the idea has been strongly condemned, with Universities UK, which represents 140 UK vice-chancellors, warning that the ‘high-handed’ approach would be a ‘cap on aspiration’.
Now ministers have ruled out the drastic limits, in what higher education sources have called an “inevitable” reversal given the fierce backlash.
On Thursday, Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said: ‘I would like to make it clear that no one is talking about limiting the total number of people entering higher education.