Fee rise 'will cut student numbers'
The Government's plans to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000 will lead to fewer students going to university, a new report predicts.
More boys will turn their back on higher education than girls, the Centre for the Economics of Education study suggests.
The findings are likely to raise fresh concerns that poorer students will be priced out, and that youngsters will be put off by high fees.
Ministers maintain that all students, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, will be given more choice and financial support.
The new report looks at the demand for post-compulsory education in England between 1955 and 2008.
It predicts that with fees raised to £9,000 the proportion of boys attending university will drop by 7.51 percentage points and the proportion of girls will decrease by 4.92 percentage points.
And if students face fees of £7,000 a year, the proportion of boys on degree courses will drop 5.33 percentage points and by 2.84 percentage points for girls.
The predictions assume there are no changes to grants and loans.
The report adds that any change to university funding that relies more on individual student fees "could endanger some of the less well established institutions".
There could be a "significant impact" on some "poorer and less selective" institutions who recruit their students from marginal groups that are less likely to go to university, it says.
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said the report was a "stark warning" that should be heeded by the Government.
"The best way the Government can try to stop their sky high fees putting off vulnerable students is to make sure more money ends up in students' pockets when they need it most," he said.
"Their focus on using partial fee waivers to push Government liability for funding higher education down further still is a false economy that will only benefit the highest earners. Only getting more money directly to vulnerable students will ensure they get the real help they need to navigate the chaotic system ministers have put in place."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "The Government's higher education reforms have been a disaster from start to finish and this report should act as an urgent wake-up call to ministers.
"Erecting punitive financial barriers is not the way to deliver a world-class higher education system and will deter the best and brightest from applying to university.
"Any drop in student numbers would leave universities, already reeling from an 80 per cent cut in teaching budgets, with a significant funding gap."
More than a third of English universities are due to charge fees of £9,000 as standard from 2012, while almost three fifths will charge the maximum for at least one of their undergraduate courses.
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