University Applications Fall: The Statistics Explained

Foreign Students's picture

The final figures for applications to British universities were released yesterday, revealing an expected drop in student numbers. There was a 7.4% decrease in applications since last year, with overall numbers dropping to 540,000. However, whilst many of the statistics make grim reading fro British universities, the report revealed that non-EU international numbers actually increased by a massive 13.7%.

With the deadline for UK and EU students passing last week, the report by university admissions organisation UCAS was eagerly awaited. Next year is the first year of increased tuition fees, and many experts were predicting huge falls in applications. However, in the end, although there was a significant drop, the figures were not as alarming as many of these estimates had predicted.

Indeed, a number of important figures in UK Higher Education were actually quite optimistic. Universities UK pointed out that the "dip is far less dramatic than many were initially predicting", whilst Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of leading universities, explained:

"Despite all the hype, fee reforms are unlikely to cause a long-term decline in applications. In the past a fall in applications in the first year of higher fees has been followed by increases in subsequent years."

This point was backed up by the fact that despite the drop in applications, the total number is still higher than the total from three years ago.

An Uneven Spread

Whilst there was an overall fall of 7.4%, this was by no means spread evenly across institutions in the UK. English and Welsh universities bore the brunt of the decreases, facing falls in applications of 8.5% and 9.3% respectively. In contrast, Scottish universities actually enjoyed a small increase of 0.2%. This is a clear example of the effects of the increased tuition fees, with UK and EU students expected to pay up to £9,000 per year in England, whilst Scottish and EU students will not pay anything to study in Scotland.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers' union, found this disparity particularly concerning:

"The figures are very worrying and once again highlight the government's folly in raising tuition fees to as much as £9,000 a year. Applications in England are down over 50% more than in any other part of the UK as a result of the government making it the most expensive country in the world in which to gain a public degree."

Another very clear example of the effect that tuition fees have on prospective students' decision making can be seen in the statistics released by BPP University College. As a private university, it charges an average of just £5,000 per year and in turn has seen its number of applications more than double in a single year.

Student Nationality Differences

The uneven spread seen in university location is matched by prospective student nationality. Whilst UK applications fell by 8.7% and EU by 11.2%, non-EU student application numbers rose by almost 14%. Again these figures reflect the changes and differences in tuition fee costs. For UK and EU students the sudden tripling of fees has clearly been too much for many prospective students to bear. However, in contrast, international student fees have always been very high, and the recent changes have not overly affected them.

Although international fees will remain higher than those that UK and EU students will pay for the majority of courses, it is the mindset that is the difference. If you know your whole life that coming to Britain to study is a huge expense, you can prepare and accept that. However, to find out just two years before you are due to start that your debt is likely to increase by three times, you are more likely to be put off.

Overall, it is hard to separate this year's applications statistics from the increased tuition fees, with every different set of figures matching up. Despite the decreases being less severe than many predicted, it is impossible not to argue the importance of fees on the number of applications.


Share with friends