The consequences of the tuition fee rise: more empty University places

With a week until the deadline for students to submit their application for university, a third of Britain’s universities still have places to fill, supporting the prediction that a massive hike in tuition fees would deter students from going to University.

In the Russell Group, made up of 24 of the country’s best universities, 7 are still offering vacancies on over a 1000 of their courses.  There have been 30,000 more places offered this year in clearing compared to last year which saw a rush for places to avoid the rise in fees.

This year has seen an overall drop in demand for University places by 7%. However David Willetts, the universities minister, points out that there has been a fall of 5000 students gaining at least 2 A’s and B’s which explains in part the drop in demand. This is due to Michael Gove’s determined effort to make exams tougher. However this cannot fully account for the drop in interest.

The truly dangerous aspect of today’s developments is the financial cost that the Universities can incur if there are places empty, many losing out on millions of pounds.  With Universities already facing other education cuts this will force Universities into precarious economic ground and more often than not result in job cuts.

A job cut among lecturers would see some of the country’s best minds removed from our universities, in turn damaging the quality of teaching and over stretching the workload of those left behind.

In the Telegraph this morning Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union stated,

“The minister’s recognition that higher tuition fees forced a scramble for places last year highlights the unfair nature of this Government’s hike in fees. At a time of high unemployment, we should be making it easier for people to get to university, not pricing them out.”

A further worrying and damaging aspect is the amount of students who opt to stay at home to cut cost and lower the debt. It is a very sad indictment of the Coalition’s plans that increasingly more students cannot be fully immersed in University life and encounter the difficulties and thrill of living away from your parents.

A study at Liverpool showed that only a fifth of stay at home students are involved in extra circular activities. As prices grow there is a real risk of producing many students who have not gained the total experience neeed to truly satisfy a university education.

Today has been another chapter to one of the most unpopular policies implemented by a Government. There is no hint of a change of course, the reality of £9000 tuition fees are one that many will now simply have to take on, account for or avoid.

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