Fewer students deferring studies

The numbers of students deferring university places to 2012 has dropped by almost two thirds, as youngsters try to avoid the tuition fee hike, new figures show.

Just 5,940 18-year-olds applying to university this year have opted to defer starting their course until the autumn of next year.

This compares with 15,701 18-year-olds who deferred their entry to 2011 in 2010 - a 62% decrease, the Ucas figures show.

The figures are a snapshot taken on June 30.

The numbers of deferrals have dropped in previous years, but this year the numbers have slumped drastically, Ucas said.

It is likely that the dramatic drop is down to students aiming to avoid the Government's plans to triple fees to as much as £9,000 from next year.

Students who apply this year for deferred entry in 2012 will still be affected by the fee hike.

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: "I would say that this is a bunch of people who have misunderstood the tuition fee."

But she added that recent attempts to publicise the new fees regime mean that more people are beginning to understand the system.

"It's beginning to get through and people recognise some of the benefits from the new regime," she said.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "Despite the Government's best efforts to suggest their reforms are fair or progressive, the British public is not stupid and can see that tripling fees and increasing the amount of money the majority of people will pay back is not a good deal.

"It comes as no surprise to us that people are trying to get into university before the price hike. Hopefully it will give ministers food for thought and encourage them to look again at this unfair and untested system."

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: "Students trying to get in ahead of the trebling of tuition fees next year will almost certainly account for much of this drop.

"Many young people defer their university place in order to take a well-earned break from education, save some money or gain some real world experience, all of which can be hugely beneficial.

"Once again the Government's choice to reduce funding for higher education and pass the burden onto students is shown to limit choice for a generation.

"Confusion reigns in higher education funding and those for whom deferring their place is a necessity will be forced to face much higher fees through no fault of their own.

"With all the changes that are taking place in higher education it would be easy for prospective students to feel rushed into making a decision and all should take the time to make the decision that is right for them.

"One can only hope that no talented, ambitious young people forego the opportunity to go to university at all because of the potential cost of deferring their place."