University applications fall as tuition fees rise in the UK
University applications for UK students are down 8.9% on last year, with 2012 being the first year that students face university fees of up to £9000 a year.
The Independent Commission on Fees, chaired by editor of the Observer Will Hutton, released its findings today. In Scotland, where home students study for free, this year has seen a 1% increase in applications.
In Northern Ireland and Wales, where fees are capped at £3,456, applications have varied by less than 1%.
The fall is greatest among mature students – applications from those ages 25-29 have dropped by 12%, compared to only 3% amongst 18-year-olds.
The revelations have, of course, led to widespread political comment. Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s Universities spokeswoman, said: “The decision of the Tory-led government to treble tuition fees to £9,000 is hitting young people and their aspirations.”
Sally Hunt, leader of lecturer’s union UCU, agreed. She explained her stance, saying: “This government can talk all it likes about improving social mobility, but how will erecting punitive financial barriers help our best and brightest get on?”
Tory Universities minister David Willetts denied that there was a problem. He argued: “This will still be a competitive year like any other, as long as people continue to understand that university remains a good long-term investment for their future.”
The drop is a severe echo of the 3.6% drop seen after Labour tripled top-up fees to roughly £3000 in 2006. This year remains the second highest year on record for university applications. Despite the 8.9% – 50,000 person – drop, there have been over 557,000 applicants from the UK and EU.