Second year’s slump in university applicants ‘should ring alarm bells’

Think tank issues warning as student union blames high fees

University applications have plummeted for the second year running, prompting a warning that “alarm bells should be ringing” in government over the slump.

The latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) reveal an eight per cent drop in applications to 145,009 compared with last year.

This follows an even larger slump last year – when candidates faced tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year for the first time – with overall numbers falling from 140,983 to 119,548. The figures also show a slight drop in applications from international students outside the UK (who often have to pay full-cost fees) of 0.8 per cent to 15,863 and 0.9 per cent from European Union students to 8,952.

A slump in applications was forecast last year as thousands of would-be students gave up gap years to start university courses in 2011 to avoid paying higher fees when they were introduced this September.

University vice-chancellors and Ucas stressed it was “early days” to read too much into the figures. But Pam Tatlow, chief executive of university think tank million+, warned that “alarm bells should be ringing in Government”. She said: “It would be a travesty if students and their families stopped seeing university for what it is – an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not just to improve career and employment prospects, but for inspiring lifelong interests and experiences.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “It is rather concerning that the number of people applying to university appears to be continuing to fall. The bottom line is that hiking fees up to £9,000 a year will put people off. Erecting punitive financial barriers is not the way to encourage the best and brightest to get on.”

However, Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of Ucas, said: “Experience tells us that changes at this point in the cycle are a poor guide to final demand. For example, in the 2012 cycle, the decrease in applications in November was much greater than the final picture in January – possibly because applicants were making more considered decisions about their higher education choices after the tuition fee changes in 2012.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat