University applications down 9 per cent on 2011

Dan Ashley writes about the ongoing disaster that is the government's tuition fee policy; now, they are apparently surprised that applications have gone down.

Sally Hunt is the General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU)

The fact that applications to university have slumped by nine per cent year on year is not a great shock to those of us involved in the higher education sector. It is difficult to know where to begin when highlighting the problems with the government’s university fees policies and their desperate attempts to portray them as anything other than regressive and damaging.

While the reforms have been a confused failure from the very start, it is only now that we are starting to see the damage they may cause.

When forcing the vote through the commons, and urging Liberal Democrat MPs to break the election pledge they made to vote against any increase in fees, ministers insisted that fees above £6,000 would be the exception.

Despite that guarantee, they budgeted for an average fee of £7,500 a year. Whoever was behind the maths got their sums wrong, as the average fee for 2012 came out at almost £8,400 a year.

However, last week, in a desperate attempt to drive down the cost, the university regulator, OFFA, announced that universities could reset their fee levels.

Although universities had already set their fee levels, around 30 have now indicated they wish to lower the cost. The reason is that after the average fee level came out much higher than the government had budgeted for, it said that institutions that charged fees below its miscalculated £7,500 a year can bid for extra students.

Universities are already struggling to keep up with the flip-flop nature of government policy, and those students who had applied will no doubt now want to check if there are cheaper options back on the market.

Got all that? It’s fair to say that the confusion caused by the botched reforms is causing young people to think twice about applying for university or only considering the cheaper options.

As well as a record slump in applications, a survey released today by the BBC warned that higher fees are putting one in ten A-level students off applying to university.

Around half of the youngsters polled said they would consider a university closer to home or one abroad with cheaper fees to save cash. People should study the right course for them, not just the cheapest one or none at all. These depressing figures take us back to the time when it was cost, not ability, that determined your future. Can we really afford to push potential Nobel Prize winners away from their specialism because of the cost of study?

The government’s fees policy has been a disaster from the start and it is clearly having a serious impact on the choices young people make. Now is the time for a rethink to avoid doing serious damage to universities and young people’s futures.

See also:

Why are the coalition so ageist?Aaron Porter, October 16th 2011

Are the devolved nations playing supermarket sweep with tuition fees?Ed Jacobs, October 4th 2011

Gove is the roadblock to Burnham’s calls of aspiration, aspiration, aspirationAlex Hern, September 29th 2011

Clegg’s using the same rhetoric to justify fees rise as he used to oppose itAaron Porter, February 4th 2011

Post-Browne, Labour must strive harder for inter-generational justiceAaron Peters, October 13th 2010

27 Responses to “University applications down 9 per cent on 2011”

  1. Alex Streeter

    Non-suprise of the day: University applications down 9 per cent on 2011: http://t.co/yqmJDUll by @UCU’s Sally Hunt

  2. Chris Hanrahan

    “@leftfootfwd: Non-suprise of the day: University applications down 9 per cent on 2011: http://t.co/pl8VDI0K by @UCU’s Sally Hunt”

  3. malcolm

    Non-suprise of the day: University applications down 9 per cent on 2011: http://t.co/yqmJDUll by @UCU’s Sally Hunt

  4. Dan Ashley

    @ucu general secretary, Sally Hunt, on the drop in university applications http://t.co/KLBQFhSw on @leftfootfwd

  5. UCU

    @ucu general secretary, Sally Hunt, on the drop in university applications http://t.co/KLBQFhSw on @leftfootfwd

  6. Anne Myers RD/APD

    @ucu general secretary, Sally Hunt, on the drop in university applications http://t.co/KLBQFhSw on @leftfootfwd

  7. Leeds University UCU

    @ucu general secretary, Sally Hunt, on the drop in university applications http://t.co/KLBQFhSw on @leftfootfwd

  8. CllrAsifK

    Non-suprise of the day: University applications down 9 per cent on 2011: http://t.co/yqmJDUll by @UCU’s Sally Hunt

  9. Catherine Pope

    Non-suprise of the day: University applications down 9 per cent on 2011: http://t.co/yqmJDUll by @UCU’s Sally Hunt

  10. Extradition Game

    RT @ucu: RT @danashley: @ucu general secretary, Sally Hunt, on the drop in university applications http://t.co/Hxd2o8v7 on @leftfootfwd

  11. cim

    It’s not a big surprise that they’re down on last year. Actually, it surprised me that they were only down by so little. (Of course, as UCAS point out, it’s too early to make predictions about application numbers yet – it could drop further or recover as the year continues)

    Lets assume that, without the fees policy change, applications would have been approximately flat between 2010 and 2012. When they announced the fees policy change, a lot of applicants who would ordinarily have applied for 2012 entry instead applied for 2011 entry (this was mentioned in the news at the time). So 2011 is then higher than 2010, and 2012 lower than 2010 (and so 2012 is much lower than the inflated 2011)

    But actually… 2012 is not significantly down on 2010, and is still higher than 2009. So the hypothesis that it would have been flat from 2010 to 2012 probably doesn’t hold – there would almost certainly have been a general increase anyway.

    Neither 2011 nor 2012 are really comparable as part of a general trend, though, because of the temporary distorting effect the change in policy has had on people’s decisions to defer applications.

    The real comparison will come in a year’s time when we can compare 2010 and 2013 – and based on the 2012 figures not being that much below 2010, I’m pretty sure that 2013 will be up on 2010.

  12. Pauline Leonard

    Non-suprise of the day: University applications down 9 per cent on 2011: http://t.co/yqmJDUll by @UCU’s Sally Hunt

  13. Leon Wolfson

    @1 – Nonsense. Given the way applications are handled, 10% now is right on for the 25% drop I predicted last year – the current figures are propped by medical courses (NHS-funded) and Oxbridge (worth paying for).

    It’ll keep falling, too. The UK already had a falling percentage of graduates, and now that’s going to rapidly fall through the floor. EU graduates will take many jobs, and some industry needing them will decamp.

    It’s no coincidence that long-term success for countries is strongly correlated with their university graduation rates!

  14. Earnest

    I’m not yet convinced that the number of graduates is the right thing to focus on. Successful countries have a lot of graduates, but if you’re successful then you can afford a lot of graduates.

  15. Stephen McCabe

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  16. Roan Proudley

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  17. Sue Orton

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  18. Conor McGurran

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  19. Pucci D

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  20. Sonny

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  21. LadyRoisin

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  22. Stephen Wasmuth

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  23. Tod Bradbury

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  24. Martha Beck

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

  25. Karl Knill

    Why r university applications down 9 per cent on 2011, Jo Swinson? Anything to do with ur policy on fees? http://t.co/ZveZqmS1 #bbcqt

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