University applications down 13% following fees increase

Diminishing returns? Early evidence hints at reduced university applications.
Diminishing returns? Early evidence hints at reduced university applications.

By Ian Dunt

The first evidence has emerged of a drop in university applications following the increase in tuition fees.

Today's monthly Ucas figures showed a drop of 12.9%, totalling just under 25,000 people, on last year's numbers.

"This is the direct result of a system designed in the language of government bureaucracy, rather than the reality facing potential applicants and their families," said Wes Streeting, chief executive of the Helena Kennedy Foundation.

"Too many people, particularly those from less well off backgrounds, feel the bar has been set too high by tuition fees at £9,000."

Experts urged caution in the interpretation of the figures, given that most courses and universities have a January 15th deadline for applicants.

Those with a deadline of October 15th have seen a statistically insignificant reduction in applications of just 0.8%.

However, these courses include medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and all Oxford and Cambridge programmes, making them qualitatively different to other applications.

The social and professional value of an Oxbridge degree is likely to outweigh concerns about the price tag, while medicinal, dental and veterinary careers are secure enough to alleviate concerns about paying back tuition fees once the £21,000 salary benchmark is reached.

"Today's preliminary figures are very worrying," said University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt.

"We believe putting financial barriers in front of young people who have been told their entire lives to aim for university is nothing more than a policy of penalising ambition.

"Students should be looking to study the courses most suited to their talents, not searching for something in their price range, and universities should not be forced into cutting prices to try and fill places."

NUS president Liam Burns said: “Ministers need to take responsibility for their disastrous education reforms and admit that regardless of the final application numbers, the behaviour of prospective students will be affected by the huge rise in fees.

“It is important there is no scaremongering about application levels or about the make up of the system but even with clear information about the way fees are paid many students will be given pause for thought given the changes."


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