One in ten students deterred from university
A BBC survey has found that the increased university fees to be introduced from September 2012 are putting off one in ten potential students.
The survey, which questioned 1009 A-Level students in England, suggested that most students would probably still go to university despite the increase in fees.
For the majority it appears the belief is that the benefits of going to university will still outweigh the costs, even after the rise in tuition fees.
Annual tuition fees at English universities will reach up to £9,000 for some courses at some universities compared to the current £3,375 maximum. Scottish students studying in Scotland will not have to pay and Welsh students can take advantage of heavily subsidised fees wherever they study in the United Kingdom.
Although most students said they would still go to university despite the fee increase, about half of those interviewed said that they would consider choosing a university closer to home in order to save money. Some also suggested that they might search for universities abroad in order to save money. Around a quarter said that the increased fees had no negative impact at all on their decision to go to university.
The government has been keen to stress that students will not be expected to pay any of their tuition fees up front. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Going to university depends on ability – not the ability to pay. Most new students will not pay upfront and there will be more financial support for those from poorer families.”
Durham University student Samuel Winders (2nd year theology) concurred: “Despite the fee increases, the fact that students aren’t expected to pay anything up front means people shouldn’t be put off.
“The employability rate at Durham is high and so it should still be easy having graduated to pay off the loan even once the fees have gone up, compared to some other universities. The fact that universities will have to work harder in order to attract students can only be a good thing.”
Nationwide however, the BBC survey found that students are worried about their debt after graduating and that they think it is very difficult to obtain a job after university.
It remains to be seen whether student numbers will be impacted on in the years following the fee rise. Following the increase in the tuition fee cap, ministers expected the £9000 per year fee to be the exception. However the majority have outlined plans to charge the maximum possible, including Reading, Oxford and Durham.
The Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) reported a 5% increase in applicants for entry in autumn 2011. However following the BBC survey, UCAS reported that university applications for 2012 are 9% lower than this level. If overseas students are taken out of the statistics, the drop for UK students is 12%.
A big decline is also evident among mature students –who are ineligible to receive financial aid from studentfinanceengland. UCAS figures show that applications from people over the age of 25 have fallen by over 20%.
Despite the fact that Welsh students will have fees over the current level subsidised by the Welsh Assembly, the number of Welsh people applying for university places is also down for 2012 by 8.3%. The National Union of Students (NUS) warned that Welsh students might have been basing their decisions on the new funding system that is only applicable to English universities.