I wanted to share with you an article written by Jeevan Vasagar for the Guardian's website which describes how higher tuition fees are impacting UK students' university choices. Lower overall UCAS applications and significant declines in applications for arts degrees: are students becoming more responsive to labour market incentives?
A band of English universities charging higher tuition fees have suffered steep drops in applications for study this September, according to official figures.
The total number of applicants to all British universities has fallen by 7.7%, with a 10% drop in the number of English applicants, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas).
Among those universities with larger undergraduate intakes, the University for the Creative Arts had the steepest drop in applicants, with 6,842 applying by the June deadline compared with 9,664 last year, a decline of 29.2%. The University of Derby saw application figures fall by 25.4%, while Surrey had a drop of just over 20%. The University of the Arts London and Sunderland, Sheffield Hallam, Manchester Met and Leeds Met university have also experienced sharp declines in applications.
Overall, just over 618,000 candidates applied for places at university this September. Demand for a university education still massively outstrips supply; a total of 492,030 students were accepted at UK universities last year.
Applications to study at Cambridge were up 2% on last year, while the number of candidates for Oxford declined by 0.6%.
In an analysis accompanying the data, Ucas said about 15,000 English 18-year-olds who might have been expected to apply for university this year did not do so, even after factoring in a decline in the overall numbers of 18-year-olds in the population this year. The analysis says 15,000 fewer 19-year-olds applied this year than would have been expected.
The decision to let universities raise undergraduate fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year provoked widespread public anger and dented the credibility of the Liberal Democrats. The junior coalition partner had gone into the general election promising to phase out fees.
According to Ucas, there has been a sharper fall in application rates for young people from wealthier backgrounds, compared with poorer teenagers. The trend in recent years has been for larger increases in applications by candidates from less advantaged backgrounds. Taking this into account, the proportional fall becomes more similar across social backgrounds, Ucas says.
Higher fees have not deterred candidates from particular courses. Most courses that candidates have applied for have maximum fees at or near £9,000. The average 2012 tuition fee for English applicants is £8,527.
Applicants from both rich and poor backgrounds are making "much the same choice" of courses as in previous years. There has been no increase in the proportion of students wanting to stay at home to study, which remains at around 20% for English, Welsh and Northern Irish applicants, and 40% for Scottish.
The Ucas chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said: "This in-depth analysis of the 2012 applications data shows that, although there has been a reduction in application rates where tuition fees have increased, there has not been a disproportionate effect on more disadvantaged groups.
"The 10% decline in applications to English institutions reported in regular Ucas statistics is more properly interpreted as a reduced young application rate of about 5% after correcting for falling populations. Application rates for older applicants have declined slightly more – by about 15%-20%."
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said: "These figures confirm that the fall in applications is far less dramatic than some were predicting for this year. We must remember that the numbers here relate to applicants, not places. There will still be considerably more people applying to university this summer than there are available places."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said: "These figures once again highlight the folly of hiking up tuition fees to £9,000 and making England one of the most expensive countries in the world in which to access higher education."