2 February 2017

Uni applications fall for the first time since fees tripled

Figures released by UCAS show a 5% decline in applications to UK universities overall, and a 7% decline in applications from EU countries.
empty classroomUCAS have released figures that show the number of people applying to university in the UK has dropped for the first time since tuition fees were tripled from £3,250 to £9,000 five years ago.

The report has been created following the UCAS January application deadline, which is normally the first indicator of how many uni starters there will be in September – although a lot of students will still get in later through Clearing.

Comparing applicant numbers with those from January last year, there’s a substantial fall in numbers across the board that UCAS have remarked are “historically quite unusual”.

Mark Corver, who is Director of Research at UCAS, has said that the only way to avoid falling numbers would be for universities to “adjust their offer rates” to get more bums on seats.

The report (in a nutshell)

Walnuts

  • 564,190 people applied for full-time study at UK universities in 2017 (5% less than in 2016)
  • Wales saw the biggest drop in applicants (7%) followed by England (6%), Northern Ireland (5%) and then Scotland (2%)
  • There was a 7% fall in applications from EU countries after Brexit (before Brexit, numbers were increasing by 6% each year)
  • The number of people applying for nursing in England has dropped a whopping 23% after bursaries were abolished this year
  • There’s been a fall in uni applicants over the age of 25
  • The number of 18 year olds applying for uni has increased, but growth has slowed from previous years.

Why are less people applying for uni?

thinking-min2016 was a shaky year for the UK as whole (okay, ‘shaky’ would be a serious understatement here) and there’s certainly no exception when it comes to higher education.

The decision to leave the EU has left many things uncertain for UK universities, and it still remains unclear what sort of obstacles Brexit could bring for EU students over the next few years, making the UK a much less attractive option for foreign students.

2016 also saw maintenance grants replaced with loans, and the £9,000 tuition fee cap lifted, with warnings that tuition fees are set to rise again from next academic year onwards.

The government are planning to implement a controversial ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF) that will see universities graded bronze, silver or gold each year, and tuition fees will rise according to which ‘award’ they receive.

We recently ran a survey that revealed 87% of students didn’t know what TEF was, despite the massive impact it’s likely to have on tuition fees (for both new and current students).

And as if that’s not enough to put prospective students off applying, the government also made a controversial u-turn on the contract terms of student loans a few months ago (‘shaky’ really was an understatement, wasn’t it).

They announced they’ll be freezing the threshold amount you need to be earning before you start repaying your loan until 2021 – the result being that graduates will start repaying their loans quicker (and more of it!) before it’s wiped after 30 years.

Struggling with the minefield that is student finance? Don’t sweat! Our big fat guide to student finance has everything you need to know.

Any good news?

smileEvery cloud needs a silver lining, right? One good thing to come out of the report is that a record number of 18-year-olds applied for university this year – despite growth slowing down compared with previous years.

Also, the number of applications coming from young people living in areas least represented in higher education increased in England, suggesting that looming tuition fee rises and scrapped maintenance grants may not be putting everyone off, at least!

Have you been put off applying for university this year? Leave a comment below or contact us directly to tell us why.

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