Apparently, there has been some big jamboree
taking place this weekend, which made it a good time to bury bad news. So it was easy to miss a story that emerged at the end of May, which showed that applications for English universities are down 10%
on last year. According to UCAS, 46 413 fewer students have applied than at the same time last year.
This fall is in line with earlier predictions of what would happen with increased tuition fees. By contrast, in Wales (where tuition is partly subsidised) applications fell by 2.7%, and in Scotland (where tuition is free for residents) applications fell by 2.2%. The universities minister, David Willetts, claimed that a ten percent drop was merely a "a small reduction in applications." Or, to spin the figures in the other direction, it is the equivalent of three full universities of students no longer applying to study for financial reasons.
Even allowing for the fact that, all things being equal, applications might be expected to fall slightly in a recession, the drop in numbers is pretty catastrophic. The application rate for the poorest 20% of the population fell by 2.2%, compared with annual increases of between 0.5% and 3% from 2006-2011. Likely to be hardest hit, though, are the "squeezed middle," those whose family incomes are sufficiently high that they are not eligible for subsidy, but that may be insufficient to pay the highest fees at the very top universities.
Labels: tuition fees, University Life