Thousands of the cheapest university places are not being filled following the introduction of varied fees due to potential students worrying that their cut-price status means the courses are not worth the money.
Figures released today show that 7,000 of the 20,000 places earmarked for students opting for courses costing less than £7,500-a-year have remained unfilled. Academics and lecturers’ leaders pinned the blame for the shortfall on students not rating the courses because they were being offered at a cheaper price, as well as debt-averse students from poorer homes being reluctant to take on the still significant cost of courses.
The figures, which show 4,200 of the 9,600 places offered to higher education institutions remained unfilled as well as 2,800 of the 10,400 places at further education colleges, were unearthed by Labour’s higher education spokeswoman, Shabana Mahmood, through a Parliamentary question.
Universities Minister, David Willetts, said: “Some institutions were expected to recruit less than their allocation to compensate for over-recruitment in previous years. We expect there to be more full-time undergraduate students in higher education this year than any year before 2010.” However, Ms Mahmood said the figures were “a damning indictment” of the Government’s higher education reforms.
A spokesman for Mr Willetts said: “We are increasing student choice. Our policy is giving thousands of people access to higher education for the first time, including people with family responsibilities who can’t travel far.
“It is surprising to see Labour opposing a policy that has widened participation and ensured local, lower cost courses.”