Universities Minister Michelle Donelan

Student Number Controls

The measures to protect students and universities during the coronavirus outbreak, including temporary student number controls and additional places.


Introduction of temporary student number controls in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Ref: DfE-00095-2020PDF, 351KB, 25 pages

Student number controls: further guidance



An outline of the plans, announced on 4 May 2020, to allow higher education providers in England to recruit full-time undergraduate students up to a temporary level.

Applications closed at 5pm 17 July 2020. The Department for Education will notify providers about their applications for the additional 10,000 places before 31 July 2020.

Published 1 June 2020 
Last updated 30 July 2020 + show all updates

  1. Updated advice for mergers and franchising arrangements.

  2. Removed application information from 'details' section. Added date by which providers will be notified of their application outcome.

  3. Updated details on how to apply for places - applications for nursing, midwifery and allied healthcare have been extended until 17 July 2020 and applications for initial teacher training (ITT) and courses of strategic importance have now closed.

  4. Added Student number controls: further guidance.

  5. Updated Annex B and DHSC list of courses in sections 33 and 45 of the document. Updated page with details on how to apply for the additional 10,000 places.

  6. First published.

On 1st June DfE published details on how the Government will put in place student number controls for the 2020/21 academic year. 

These number controls will only apply to full-time, undergraduate, UK/EU domiciled students, with certain specified exemptions. For example, the control will not apply to students sitting their A levels in the autumn and new providers.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:

“I know this is an extremely difficult and anxious time for students, universities and their staff, which is why we have introduced student number controls to stabilise the admissions system and protect higher education from the financial impact of Covid-19.

“We want everyone who achieves their entry requirements to be able to go to university, and the measures seek to ensure students have the widest possible variety and most suitable places to study in the coming academic year, while avoiding harmful over-recruitment among providers which could go against the interests of students and the sector. The controls will make adjustments to take account of offers already accepted before 1 June, and will make best use of taxpayer funding to support students.

“We also understand the importance of supporting our vital public services at this time, which is why the Government will allocate an additional 5,000 places for subjects such as nursing and healthcare and another 5,000 for key areas including engineering and sciences at high quality institutions.

“I will continue to work with the sector and across Government to understand the challenges higher education faces and provide support during this uncertain time.”

Kirsty WIlliams May2020 100x100Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams has written to Michelle Donelan expressing a ‘deep concern’ over plans to announce the UK Government’s intention to introduce temporary student number controls in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

 “I am deeply concerned that you have chosen to place a control on Welsh institutions rather than work with the Welsh Government to achieve a solution that is compatible with devolution. I do not believe this approach in the best interests of the UK as a whole, and demonstrates a surprising unwillingness to respect complementary policies in each nation.

 “In line with the four nations approach to stabilising the admissions system, it is regrettable that the UK Government’s proposals will cut across HEFCW’s proposals which are being developed in partnership with the sector in Wales.

“My chief concern is to protect the interests of Welsh students and Welsh higher education institutions. I will consider the consequences for Wales arising from the UK Government’s policy and take further action to ensure that those interests are protected.

“The approach in Wales to stabilising student recruitment will be developed in collaboration with HEFCW and our sector. My decision about how to progress will based on what it is right for Welsh students and Wales as a whole.”

Layla Moran100x100Responding to news that the UK Government will take steps to impose caps on the number of English students admitted to universities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in September 2020, Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

"The COVID-19 crisis has plunged universities across the UK into uncertainty, not least over admissions for the new academic year, now just a few months away.  

"The Department of Education's decision to impose a seemingly arbitrary cap in this way is clearly out of step with plans being made by devolved administrations.   

"The Education Minister must act rapidly to put this right. He must go back and consult with his counterparts in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to ensure all nations are on the same page when it comes to the admission of the next cohort of students."

Student Number Controls

The measures to protect students and universities during the coronavirus outbreak, including temporary student number controls and additional places.


Introduction of temporary student number controls in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Ref: DfE-00095-2020PDF, 253KB, 24 pages


An outline of the plans announced on 4 May 2020 to allow higher education providers in England recruit full-time undergraduate students up to a temporary level.

Applications for the additional 10,000 places

Providers and institutions will be able to apply for places, as set out in points 30 to 50 of the guidance.

Check this webpage from 18 June 2020 for more information about the application process.

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