Teenagers turn their backs on a university education

Courses to close and redundancies loom as applications plummet

Universities have suffered the steepest fall in applications since records began, with the total number of students seeking places this autumn plummeting by 8.7 per cent as the true impact of tuition fee increases is felt.

Click here to see the 'University Crisis' graphic

Last night, there were warnings that the decline would lead to course closures and redundancies at campuses across the country. An even more marked drop of 9.9 per cent was recorded in applications from students in England, where fees are rising to up to £9,000 a year.

More men than women have been discouraged from applying, with their numbers falling by 8.5 per cent to 230,342, figures from Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) showed. There are 309,731 female applicants – 6.7 per cent fewer than at this time last year.

A subject-by-subject breakdown reveals that the courses suffering the worst declines include non-European languages such as Japanese and Mandarin, which are often cited as being vital to the future of the British economy. Applications to these courses are down 21.5 per cent. Creative arts and design courses are down by more than 16 per cent and technology by 17 per cent. The only degrees to register an increase are some medicine courses, including nursing, which are up 2 per cent.

In all, there are 43,473 fewer applications for degree courses starting in autumn 2012 than there were last year.

Martin Freedman, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "We are deeply concerned that many potential students are being put off applying and their career prospects will be damaged as a result. The fall in applicants also has worrying implications for universities' finances now that ... most of their funding is due to come from students rather than the Government."

The Ucas chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said she was "concerned about the wide and increasing gap between the application rate of men compared to women". However, she said she was relieved that the new fees structure did not seem to have affected the number of disadvantaged students seeking to enter higher education. "Our analysis shows that decreases in demand are slightly larger in more advantaged groups than in disadvantaged groups," she said.

Twenty universities have seen a fall in applications of more than 15 per cent. The biggest drop is at the University of the Creative Arts – which has campuses in Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester – where numbers are down 29 per cent. By contrast, Cambridge University has had 2 per cent more applications.

The number of overseas students seeking a place is still rising, despite curbs on immigration, with applications up 13 per cent. Britain is particularly popular with students from Hong Kong, with applications from there rising by 37 per cent.

Prospective students from EU countries, who face the same fee increases as their English peers, applied for 11 per cent fewer places. Mature students also seem to be staying away, with applications from 23-year-olds showing a 13.5 per cent decline, and from 25- to 29-year-olds falling by 11.8 per cent. Applications from 18-year-old school-leavers dropped by only 2.6 per cent.

The figures show the number of English students applying for degree courses has slumped by 9.9 per cent. Tuition fees for English students at English universities will treble to a maximum of £9,000 a year this September. In Scotland, where Scottish students do not have to pay fees, applicants are down by 1.5 per cent. In Wales, where Welsh students are subsidised, numbers are 1.9 per cent lower.

Shabana Mahmood, the shadow Minister for Higher Education, said: "It is clear the drastic increase in fees and the debt burden is putting people of all ages off going to university."

With some degree subjects hit by a drop in applications of more than 20 per cent, the new higher education landscape could well threaten the viability of courses, especially in arts and humanities subjects which have lost their funding under government cutbacks. The overall number of applications – 540,073 – is already 65,000 higher than the number of places on offer this autumn. Last year, Ucas received 100,000 applications after the January deadline had expired.

Many students appear to be casting their eyes further afield to secure a good-value education. Maastricht University in the Netherlands said yesterday that it had 152 per cent more applications from British students than it did at this time last year. The university, which charges £1,500 a year and teaches all courses in English, expects about 600 young people from the UK to apply this year.

Professor Michael Farthing, the vice-chancellor of Sussex University, said: "The cuts to funding gave universities little option other than to increase fees and, as a result, many prospective students have obviously been wary of applying this year."

The Universities minister, David Willetts, insisted: "Even with a small reduction in applications, this will still be a competitive year like any other."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003